On Following Christ

«The Lord walks the roads of our daily life»

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Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s address before and after the recitation of the Angelus to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square today.

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Dear brothers and sisters, hello,

This Sunday’s Gospel recounts the beginnings of Jesus’s public life in the cities and villages of Galilee. His mission did not start from Jerusalem, that is, from the religious, social, and political center but from an area on the periphery, from an area despised by the most observant Jews because of the presence in that region of foreign groups. This is why the prophet Isaiah refers to it as “Galilee of the Gentiles” (Isaiah 8:23).

It is a borderland, an area with many travelers where one meets people of different races, cultures and religions. Thus, Galilee in this way becomes the symbolic place of the Gospel’s openness to all peoples. From this point of view, Galilee resembles today’s world: the joint presence of different cultures, the necessity of confrontation and encounter. We too are immersed every day in a “Galilee of the Gentiles,” and in this sort of context we can be frightened and give in to the temptation of building walls around ourselves to be safer and more protected. But Jesus teaches us that the glad tidings that he brings are not reserved for just one part of humanity; it is to be communicated to everyone. It is a joyful proclamation to those who have been waiting for it but also perhaps to those who have given up and no longer have the strength to seek and to ask.

Starting from Galilee, Jesus teaches us that no one is excluded from God’s salvation, that, on the contrary, God prefers starting on the periphery, from those who are last, to reach all. He teaches us a method, his method, that, however also expresses the content, namely, the Father’s mercy. “Each Christian and every community must discern the path that the Lord points out, but all of us are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the ‘peripheries’ in need of the light of the Gospel” (“Evangelii gaudium,” 20).

Jesus begins his mission not only from a de-centered (“decentrato”), but also from people that are, we could say, “low profile.” To choose his first disciples and future apostles, he does not turn to the schools of the scribes and doctors of the Law, but to humbler, simpler persons, who make an effort to prepare for the Kingdom of God. Jesus calls them where they work, on the shores of the sea, they are fishermen. He calls them and they immediately follow him. They leave their nets and go with him: their life will become an extraordinary and fascinating adventure.

Dear friends, the Lord call today too! The Lord walks the roads of our daily life. Today too, in this moment, here, the Lord passes through the piazza. He calls us to go with him, to work with him for the Kingdom of God, in the Galilees of our time. Each of you should think: the Lord passes by today, the Lord looks at me, he is looking at me! What does the Lord say to me? And if one of you feels that the Lord says to him, “Follow me,” be courageous, go with the Lord. The Lord never disappoints. Listen in your heart whether the Lord is calling you to follow him. Let us allow ourselves to be reached by his gaze, his voice, and let us follow him! So “that the joy of the Gospel may reach to the ends of the earth, illuminating even the fringes of our world” (“Evangelii gaudium,” 288).

[Following the recitation of the Angelus, the Holy Father further addressed those gathered in St. Peter’s Square:]

Today you see that I am not alone. Two of you are with me. They came up here. They are great!

Today we celebrate the World Leprosy Day. This sickness, although it is disappearing, unfortunately still strikes many people today, who live in miserable circumstances. It is important to keep the solidarity with these brothers and sisters alive. We assure them of our prayer; and we also pray for all those who care for them and, in different ways, work to defeat this disaease.

I am close to the Ukraine in prayer, especially those who lost their lives recently and their families. I would like to see a constructive dialogue develop between the institutions and civil society, an end to all violent actions and the victory of the spirit of peace and pursuit of the common good in everyone’s hearts!

Today there are many children in the piazza. Many! With them too I would like to turn my thoughts to Cocò Campolongo, who at 3 years old was burned in a car in Cassano allo Jonio. This fury against such a little child does not seem to have precedent in the history of crime. Let us pray with Cocò, who is surely in heaven with Jesus, for the people who committed this crime, that they repent and covert to the Lord.

In the next few days, millions of people, who live in the Far East or in different places in the world, Chinese, Koreans, Vietnamese and others, will celebrate the lunar new year. I wish them all a life full of joy and hope. May the irrepressible longing for brotherhood that lives in their hearts find a privileged place in the intimacy of the family, where it can be found, formed and realized. This will be a precious contribution to the building up of a more human world, in which peace reigns.

Yesterday in Naples, Maria Cristina di Savoia was proclaimed blessed. She lived in the first half of the 19th century and was the queen of the 2 Sicilies. A woman of profound spirituality and great humility, she knew how to take on the suffering of her people, becoming a true mother of the poor. Her extraordinary example of charity testified that the good life of the Gospel is possible in every setting and social condition.

I greet with affection all of you, dear pilgrims, who have come from different parishes in Italy and other countries. I also greet all of the associations, student groups and others. I especially greet the students from Cuenca, Spain and the young women from Panama. I greet the faithful from Caltanissetta, Priolo Gargallo, San Severino Marche and San Giuliano Milanese, and the alumni of the School of Minoprio

I turn now to the young people of Catholic Action of the Diocese of Rome! Dear young people, this year too, accompanied by the cardinal vicar, you have come here in large numbers at the end of your “Caravan of Peace.” I thank you! I thank you very much! Let us now listen to the message that your friends here next to me will read to us.

[Reading of the message.]

And now these two great kids will release the doves, symbol of peace.

[Release of the doves.]

I wish everyone a good Sunday and a good lunch. Goodbye!

[Translation by Joseph Trabbic]
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