Pope: Christians serve with joy and not with a grimace

(Vatican Radio)  Pope Francis on Tuesday urged Christians to serve other people, without delay or hesitation, saying if we learnt how to reach out in this way, the world would be a very different place. His remarks came during his homily at the morning Mass in the Santa Marta residence where he used the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary for his reflections on the concept of a Christian at the service of others.

May 31st was the final day of the month dedicated to Mary and the Pope used the day’s readings to illustrate Mary’s courage, her helping hand and concern for others and above all her joy, a joy, he said, that fills our hearts and gives meaning and a new direction to our lives. Referring to Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth, Pope Francis said this is a liturgy full of joy that arrives like “a breath of fresh air” to fill our lives.  

Joy and a grimace

“Christians with a grimace or disgruntled expression on their faces, sad Christians, are a very ugly thing.  It’s really ugly, ugly, ugly. However, they are not fully Christian. They think they are (Christians) but they are not fully so. This is the Christian message. And in this atmosphere of joy that today’s liturgy gives us like a gift, I would like to underline just two things: first, an attitude; second, a fact.  The attitude is one of service or helping others.”

The Pope pointed out how the gospel describes Mary as setting off immediately and without hesitation to visit her cousin, despite being pregnant and despite the risk of meeting robbers along the route. This young girl of 16 or 17, he said, was courageous by getting up straightaway and setting out on her journey. 

The Church’s courageous women

“The courage of women. The courageous women who are present in the Church: they are like Mary. These women who bring up their families, these women who are responsible for rearing their children, who have to face so many hardships, so much pain, women who look after the sick….   Courageous: they get up and help other people. Serving others is a Christian sign. Whoever doesn’t live to serve other people, doesn’t serve to live.  Serving others and being full of joy is the attitude that I would like to underline today. There is joy and also service towards others.”

The second attitude whose importance was stressed by the Pope is reaching out and meeting other people. Referring once again to Mary’s meeting with her cousin, he noted that the two kinswomen greeted each other with joy and their encounter was very festive. In conclusion, Pope Francis said if we could learn these two things: to serve others and reach out to them, how much our world would change:

“Reaching out to others is another Christian sign.  Persons who describe themselves as Christian and who are unable to reach out to others, to go and meet them are not totally Christian. Being of service and reaching out to others both require going out from themselves: going out to serve and meet others, to embrace another person.  Through Mary’s service towards others, through that encounter, our Lord’s promise is renewed and makes it happen now, just as it did then. And it is really our Lord – as we heard during the first Reading: ‘The Lord, your God, is in your midst’ – the Lord is about helping other people, the Lord is about meeting other people.”

(from Vatican Radio)

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Pope Francis at Santa Marta: memory, prophecy, hope

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated Mass in the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta on Monday morning. In remarks to the faithful following the Readings of the Day, the Holy Father focused on the threefold theme of the dynamic unity in Christian life, the signs of which are living memory, the prophetic spirit, and the sure horizon of hope.

The Pope took as the central focus of his reflection the Gospel passage of the day – from the Gospel according to St. Mark (12:1-12), in which Jesus addresses the Priests, Scribes and Pharisees with the parable of the murderous tenant-farmers. Against the landowner who planted a well-organized vineyard and entrusted them with its care, the tenants  decided to revolt, insulting, beating and killing first the  servants the master sent to reclaim the land and collect his due, and then, at the climax of the drama, murdering the only son of the owner – wrongly believing that such an act could earn them a right to inherit the owner’s substance.

Casuistry and freedom

The killing of the master’s servants and of the master’s own son – a Biblical image of the prophets and of Christ Himself – shows a people closed in on itself, one not open to the promises of God, a people that does not await the fulfilment of God’s promises: a people without memory, without prophecy and without hope. The leaders of the people, in particular, are interested in erecting a wall of laws, a “closed juridical system”, and nothing else:

“Memory is no concern: as for prophecy, it were better that no prophets come; and hope? But everyone will see it. This is the system through which they legitimate: the lawyers, theologians who always go the way of casuistry and do not allow the freedom of the Holy Spirit; they do not recognize God’s gift, the gift of the Spirit; and they cage the Spirit, because they do not allow prophecy in hope.”

This is the religious system to which Jesus speaks: “A system – as the First Reading says – of corruption, worldliness and concupiscence,’ so St. Peter says in the First Reading.”

Memory makes us free

Pope Francis went on to say that, at bottom, “Jesus was Himself tempted to lose the memory of His own mission, to not give way to prophecy and to prefer security instead of Hope,” i.e. the essence of the three temptations suffered in the desert. Therefore, Pope Francis said:

“To this people Jesus, because he knew temptation in Himself, reproaches: ‘You traverse half the world to have one proselyte, and when you find him, you make him a slave.’ This people thus organized, this Church so organized, makes slaves – and so it is understandable how Paul reacts when he speaks of slavery to the law and of the liberty that grace gives: a people is free, a Church is free, when it has memory, when it makes room for prophets, when it does not lose hope”

An open heart, or a heart in a cage?

The Holy Father stressed that the well-organized vineyard is in fact “the image of the People of God, the image of the Church and also the image of our soul,” for which the Father always cares “with so much love and tenderness.” To rebel against Him is, as it was for the murderous tenants, “to lose the memory of the gift” received from God, while, “in order to remember and not make mistakes on the way,” it is important “always to return to the roots”:

“Do I have the memory of the wonders that the Lord has wrought in my life? Can I remember the gifts of the Lord? I am able to open my heart to the prophets, i.e. to him, who says to me, ‘this isn’t working, you have to go beyond: go ahead, take a risk’? This is what prophets do: am I open to that, or am I afraid, and do I prefer to close myself within the cage of the law? Finally: do I have hope in God’s promises, such as had our father Abraham, who left his home without knowing where he was going, only because he hoped in God? It will do us well to ask ourselves these three questions.”

(from Vatican Radio)

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Pope Francis greets members of ‘Schola Occurentes’, promoters of peace

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday afternoon met with members of the Pontifical Foundation ‘Scholas Occurrentes’ at the conclusion of their World Congress.

The Foundation is an international project based in Argentina that brings together schools and educational networks from different cultures and religious backgrounds.

The informal meeting, which consisted in testimonials, music, videos and a “question and answer” session between Pope Francis and those present, took place in the Vatican Synod Hall.

It came following a three-day meeting which featured representatives of  the Foundation from across the globe gathered in the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in the Vatican to talk on the theme: “University and School: Wall or Bridge”.

Amongst the public were personalities like Salma Hayek, George Clooney and Richard Gere. 

The meeting aims to mark the beginning of an interactive initiative launched by Scholas Occurentes with the creation of a website, askpopefrancis.scholasoccurrentes.org where it will be possible to put questions to Pope Francis. 

This virtual exchange will result in a book, to be published by Mondadori.

During the meeting Pope Francis also received the gift of an olive tree; he autographed surfboards and of course answered questions. 

One girl asked him how to make the world a better place and Francis immediately said by “lowering the level of violence”. 

A young Mexican girl spoke of how she was harassed at school, another young student talked of a letter sent to her by a sister working in Africa which contained photographs of children who had been abused.

In both of these cases, said the Pope, children and adolescents suffer the same type of “cruelty,” that is why our world, he continued “needs to listen, needs gentleness, so we can all walk together”.

And warning against an increased risk of “nuclearization” in the world, the Pope said bridges must be built.

He highlighted that words are not enough saying we must also speak with gestures: “a smile, a hug, a pat on the shoulder”; “we must listen to others, ask questions, and dialogue will provide the bridge” he said.

It was observed that the Scholas Occurentes relies heavily on social networks to further this dialogue.

Other topics touched upon regarded a hashtag campaign against bullying, a series of initiatives for the protection of the environment, the use of art and sport to promote Christian values.

(from Vatican Radio)

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Pope Francis asks for prayers for Syrian children

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis urged the faithful to join in prayer on this coming Wednesday, June 1, International Children’s Day, with a special thought for the children in Syria.

Speaking after the Angelus Prayer in St. Peter’s Square the Pope greeted all the Deacons present in Rome for their Jubilee, thanking them for being present for the occasion but also for their presence in the Church.  

And remarking on the upcoming International Children’s Day, Pope Francis said that it will be particularly significant for Christian communities in Syria where Catholics and Orthodox will hold a special prayer for peace, in which children will be the protagonists.

“Syrian children invite children of the world to join them in their prayer for peace” he said.

(from Vatican Radio)

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Pope to Deacons: ‘you are called to serve, not to be self-serving’

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday told Deacons from across the globe that they must be generous with their lives and with their time.

“One who serves cannot hoard his free time, he said, he has to give up the idea of being master of his day”  because he knows that his time “is not his own, but a gift from God which is then offered back to him. Only in this way will it bear fruit.”
  
The Pope’s words came during the homily at Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for the conclusion of the Jubilee for Deacons.

Deacons and their families from all around the world were invited to make a pilgrimage to Rome from 27 to 29 May in order to participate in this major gathering on the occasion of the Extraordinary Jubilee year of Mercy

Focusing on the fact that Deacons must be good and faithful servants, Pope Francis said: “One who serves is not a slave to his own agenda, but ever ready to deal with the unexpected, ever available to his brothers and sisters and ever open to God’s constant surprises”.  

And speaking off-the-cuff, the Pope urged those present to have the courage to ignore timetables. He said he is not pleased when he sees a timetable on Church doors and parishes because it means that the doors are not always open, that there is not always a priest, a deacon or a layperson available to receive the people.

“A servant, he said,  knows how to open the doors of his time and inner space for those around him, including those who knock on those doors at odd hours, even if that entails setting aside something he likes to do or giving up some well-deserved rest”. 

“Dear deacons, if you show that you are available to others, your ministry will not be self-serving, but evangelically fruitful” he said.

Please find below the full text of the Pope’s homily for the conclusive Mass of the Jubilee for Deacons:

“A servant of Jesus Christ” (Gal 1:10).  We have listened to these words that the Apostle Paul, writing to the Galatians, uses to describe himself.  At the beginning of his Letter, he had presented himself as “an apostle” by the will of the Lord Jesus (cf. Gal 1:1).  These two terms – apostle and servant – go together.  They can never be separated.  They are like the two sides of a medal.  Those who proclaim Jesus are called to serve, and those who serve proclaim Jesus.

    The Lord was the first to show us this.  He, the Word of the Father, who brought us the good news (Is 61:1), indeed, who is the good news (cf. Lk 4:18), became our servant (Phil 2:7).  He came “not to be served, but to serve” (Mk 10:45).  “He became the servant (diakonos) of all”, wrote one of the Church Fathers (Saint Polycarp, Ad Phil. V, 2).  We who proclaim him are called to act as he did.  A disciple of Jesus cannot take a road other than that of the Master.  If he wants to proclaim him, he must imitate him.  Like Paul, he must strive to become a servant.  In other words, if evangelizing is the mission entrusted at baptism to each Christian, serving is the way that mission is carried out.  It is the only way to be a disciple of Jesus.  His witnesses are those who do as he did: those who serve their brothers and sisters, never tiring of following Christ in his humility, never wearing of the Christian life, which is a life of service.

    How do we become “good and faithful servants” (cf. Mt 25:21)?  As a first step, we are asked to be available.  A servant daily learns detachment from doing everything his own way and living his life as he would.  Each morning he trains himself to be generous with his life and to realize that the rest of the day will not be his own, but given over to others.  One who serves cannot hoard his free time; he has to give up the idea of being the master of his day.  He knows that his time is not his own, but a gift from God which is then offered back to him.  Only in this way will it bear fruit.  One who serves is not a slave to his own agenda, but ever ready to deal with the unexpected, ever available to his brothers and sisters and ever open to God’s constant surprises.  A servant knows how to open the doors of his time and inner space for those around him, including those who knock on those doors at odd hours, even if that entails setting aside something he likes to do or giving up some well-deserved rest.  Dear deacons, if you show that you are available to others, your ministry will not be self-serving, but evangelically fruitful.

Today’s Gospel also speaks to us of service.  It shows us two servants who have much to teach us: the servant of the centurion whom Jesus cures and the centurion himself, who serves the Emperor.  The words used by the centurion to dissuade Jesus from coming to his house are remarkable, and often the very opposite of our own: “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof” (7:6); I did not presume to come to you” (7:7); “I also am a man set under authority” (7:8).  Jesus marvels at these words.  He is struck by the centurion’s great humility, by his meekness.  Given his troubles, the centurion might have been anxious and could have demanded to be heard, making his authority felt.  He could have insisted and even forced Jesus to come to his house.  Instead, he was modest and unassuming; he did not raise his voice or make a fuss.  He acted, perhaps without even being aware of it, like God himself, who is “meek and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29).  For God, who is love, out of love is ever ready to serve us.  He is patient, kind and always there for us; he suffers for our mistakes and seeks the way to help us improve.  These are the characteristics of Christian service; meek and humble, it imitates God by serving others: by welcoming them with patient love and unflagging sympathy, by making them feel welcome and at home in the ecclesial community, where the greatest are not those who command but those who serve (cf. Lk 22:26).  This, dear deacons, is how your vocation as ministers of charity will mature: in meekness.

After the Apostle Paul and the centurion, today’s readings show us a third servant, the one whom Jesus heals.  The Gospel tells us that he was dear to his master and was sick, without naming his grave illness (v. 2).  In a certain sense, we can see ourselves in that servant.  Each of us is very dear to God, who loves us, chooses us and calls us to serve.   Yet each of us needs first to be healed inwardly.  To be ready to serve, we need a healthy heart: a heart healed by God, one which knows forgiveness and is neither closed nor hardened.  We would do well each day to pray trustingly for this, asking to be healed by Jesus, to grow more like him who “no longer calls us servants but friends” (cf. Jn 15:15).  Dear deacons, this is a grace you can implore daily in prayer.  You can offer the Lord your work, your little inconveniences, your weariness and your hopes in an authentic prayer that brings your life to the Lord and the Lord to your life.  When you serve at the table of the Eucharist, there you will find the presence of Jesus, who gives himself to you so that you can give yourselves to others.

In this way, available in life, meek of heart and in constant dialogue with Jesus, you will not be afraid to be servants of Christ, and to encounter and caress the flesh of the Lord in the poor of our time.

(from Vatican Radio)

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Pope Francis meets with President of Singapore

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Saturday met with Mr. Tony Tan Keng Yam, the President of the Republic of Singapore, who subsequently met with the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, who was accompanied by Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Secretary for Relations with States.

A statement issued by the Holy See Press Office said the meeting was “cordial” and the parties spoke about “the good relations between the Holy See and Singapore, as well as the collaboration between Church and State, especially in the educational and social fields.”

The statement also said they also spoke about certain international issues and the regional political situation, with particular reference to the importance of interreligious and intercultural dialogue for the promotion of human rights, stability, justice and peace in Southeast Asia.

(from Vatican Radio)

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Pope Francis meets with President of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Friday met with Hebe de Bonafini, 87, the founder and president of the Asociación Madres de Plaza de Mayo (Association of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo). The Association was formed by the mothers of those dissidents who “disappeared” (los desaparecidos) during the 1976-1983 military dictatorship in Argentina. During  this period,  Hebe de Bonafini lost two sons and her daughter-in-law.

She spoke after her meeting with the Holy Father, and told journalists the two had embraced and that apologized for earlier criticisms she had made of the Pope.

She also said they discussed the current situation in Argentina, especially the large number of people out of work, and struggling to survive.

(from Vatican Radio)

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