Pope Francis reflected on the humility of the Apostle Paul in his homily during the Mass celebrated at Domus Sanctae Marthae this morning. The Holy Father concelebrated with Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, prefect of the Congregation of the Clergy along with priests and staff of the dicastery.
Drawing from the 2nd Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians, Pope Francis stated that a true follower of Christ recognizes himself as a the bearer of a treasure despite being an “earthenware” vessel. The “extraordinary power of faith” he explained, is the work of God who poured out his grace upon sinful men, those in “earthen vessels.”
“Nevertheless, it is from the relationship between the grace and power of Jesus Christ and ourselves, poor sinners as we are, that the dialogue of salvation springs,” Pope Francis said. The Holy Father also stressed that this dialogue must avoid any self-justification, it must between God and ourselves “as we are.”
“Paul has spoken many times – it’s like a refrain, no? – of his sins. ‘But I tell you this: I’ve been a persecutor of the Church, I pursued …’ it always comes back to his memory of sin,” the Pope said. “He feels sinful. but even then he does not say: ‘I was [a sinner], but now I am holy’, no. Even now, a thorn of Satan in my flesh. He shows us his own weakness, his own sin. He is a sinner who accepts Jesus Christ, who dialogues with Jesus Christ.”
“The key”, the Holy Father continued, “is therefore humility. Paul himself proves it. He publicly acknowledges his track record of service”, all he had done as an Apostle of Jesus. However, Pope Francis also stated that Paul does not hide or gloss over what he described as “his handbook”, meaning his sins.
“This is the model of humility for us priests for us priests, too. If we only pride ourselves on our [service record] and nothing more, we end up [going] wrong. We cannot proclaim Jesus Christ the Savior because we do not feel Him [present and at work] deep down. We have to be humble, but with real humility, [from head to toe]: ‘I am a sinner for this, for this, for this’, as Paul did: ‘I persecuted the Church, ” – as he did, [recognizing ourselves] concrete sinners: not sinners with that [kind of ] humility, which seems more a put-on face, no? Oh no, strong humility.”
The Holy Father went on to say that the humility of both a Christian and priest is concrete, that is, when one falls, it is crucial to “understand the beauty of salvation that Jesus brings us” through the forgiveness of sins.
“Brothers, we have a treasure: that of Jesus Christ the Savior!” the Pope exclaimed. “The Cross of Jesus Christ, this treasure of which we pride ourselves – but we have it in a clay vessel. Let us vaunt also our handbook of our sins. Thus is the Christian and Catholic dialogue: concrete, because the salvation of Jesus Christ is concrete. Jesus Christ has not saved us with an idea, an intellectual program, no. He saved with His flesh, with the concreteness of flesh. He is lowered, made man, made flesh until the end. This is a gift that we can only understand, only receive, in earthen vessels.”
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis compared the humility of St. Paul to that of the Samaritan woman, who after meeting with Jesus, told her countrymen of her sin first and then about speaking with Christ.
“I believe, Pope Francis said, that this woman is in heaven, sure,” because, as [the Italian author Alessandro] Manzoni once said, ‘I have never found that the Lord began a miracle without finishing it well’ and this miracle that He began definitely ended well in heaven.”
“Let us ask her [the Samaritan woman] to help us to be vessels of clay in order to carry and understand the glorious mystery of Jesus Christ.”