Here is Part II of the Pope’s meditation during the 3rd World Retreat of Priests on Friday, June 12th at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, Rome.
Part I was published on Tuesday, June 16th.
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And how to speak of Jesus? (something else, I now pass over …) How to speak of the love of Jesus to people? How to preach or – allow me a neologism – how to ‘kerygmatize’, transmit the kerygma with the certainty that the Holy Spirit gives? Oh my God, the homilies (laughs). Please have pity on the faithful people of God.
A priest of Rome told me that he went to visit his father and mother who live quite far from here, and his father said to him, I am very happy because with my friends we found a parish where Mass is celebrated without a homily or when during the homily men go out to smoke cigarettes because they can’t stand the priest. They told me that a short time ago a priest preached in a parish on the anti-Christ, on the loss of faith in Europe, also on ecumenism within that disastrous picture of confusion … what a pity, what a waste of time, he read in a tablet he had written, people couldn’t stand it more than eight minutes; they couldn’t stand it any more, (…) and they wanted him to speak to them from his heart, from his heart. A professor of Homiletics that we had said: an idea, a word, forgiveness … an idea, an image and a sentiment is the only thing a homily must have. What do I want to transmit? And look for the idea – with what image will I transmit it and what sentiment will I give and cause. Some told me that it was excessive that in Evangelii Gaudium I dedicated so much time to the homily, but it is the drama of our churches.
There are homilies that are excellent conferences, they are good or lovely classes of Theology, but they do not reach – and don’t forget that the homily is not a conference, it’s not a class of catechesis, it is a sacramental. In the homily the Word of God is in the middle between the ex opera operato and the ex opera operantes, it’s there. It is to give the best of myself so that the Holy Spirit speaks, and so that he touches hearts; it is a positive language, it isn’t so very prohibitive. The homiletic structure, to be simple, should have the kerygmatic proclamation, a brief catechesis on this kerygmatic proclamation — which is a point we are going to touch upon — and in addition a consequence for life which could be of a type of behavior, that is, moral; in general, homilies omit the first two and go to the third, they are moralities, what must and must not be done. That isn’t a homily; it is a class on morals, of catechesis on morality. Speak to the People of God with well prayed homilies, and two or three priests should get together to prepare it. I know of priests who already meet on Mondays or Tuesdays for a while to prepare the homily of the following Sunday and they pray during the whole week. Please, don’t scare the People of God, don’t waste time, speak of Jesus, of the joy of a faith anchored in Jesus, of the Good News of the Kingdom, of the revolution of the Beatitudes, of the love that transforms the heart so that the enamoured heart is a witness of Jesus and of his love, which is stronger than hatred and death. The love that is Jesus has conquered the devil and death, it is stronger than any murderous terrorism; we are called by love to be like Jesus Christ, to love without limits, to love in all circumstances.
I confess to you that it makes me sad when a parish priest, for instance, does not baptize a newborn because he is the child of an unmarried mother or parents who have remarried. He has no right. Baptism cannot be denied. Engrave this well; don’t scare the faithful people. And I wasn’t told this; I saw it in my homeland. I remember a poor girl, she was about 20, with her baby who waited for me after Mass in a parish and said Father you can. Why don’t you baptize him for me? Yes, I ask the parish priest here to baptize him … but I went to that parish and they didn’t want to baptize him … and that poor girl, who had the courage to bring that child into the world alone, who didn’t send it back to the sender, as is so easy to do today, the Church denies baptism. What are we, Puritans? Please, let’s not have a Church without Jesus and without mercy. Don’t scare the faithful people. When this happens, when the priest’s heart is bureaucratic and attached to the letter of the law the Church, which is Mother, is transformed, for so many faithful into a stepmother. Please, make them feel that the Church is always Mother. Father, but I don’t know, there are things in confession that I can’t forgive, or according to books on morality I see that it’s not appropriate. If someone asks me that question, Jesus answered it seventy times seven; don’t be afraid.
There is a great confessor in Buenos Aires; he is three years younger than me; he has the charism of confession; he is a friar and he has a list, a queue every day. He spends the day in the confessional because people spread the message, this one knows, this one forgives, this one listens to you, this one gives you good advice, and all are there in the queue, priests, simple people, and not so simple people, they are all there. The queue of sinners; it reminds me of the queue of those who went to be baptized by John the Baptist. And one day this priest came to see me, we are friends, and he said to me: look, at times I’m very afraid of being unfaithful to the Lord, and I think I forgive much, that I forgive too much, and sometimes there are days that I have scruples. And I say to him, and what must one do when one has scruples? I go to the Tabernacle, I look at the Lord and I say to him, look, forgive me, today I forgave too much, I forgave too much, but it isn’t my fault, it was you who gave me the bad example. They must repeat, they must repeat that prayer; they must be merciful, they must be merciful. It’s not that you promise me that you will never commit it again … there is a principle of morality that is very clear, ad imposibilia nemo tenetur. There are people that are marked by habits that they can’t overcome or by situations of life that they can’t resolve because there is a family in between, and only the fact that someone comes and kneels down in the confessional is a sign of repentance and the gesture precedes the word, it’s a gesture of repentance. And the fact that someone comes with this gesture to the confessional is because he wants to change. Sometimes the human limitations are so many that only the embrace, the affection of Mother Church understands that ad imposibilia nemo tenetur and with the affection of Jesus you say go in peace and try to sin no more.
There was a priest in Buenos Aires that I knew when I was a young lad, then I lost sight of him, and I met him when he was already old, a parish priest, when I was a seminarian, he was a poet, he wrote lovely things, especially to the Virgin, and he expresses to the Virgin his sinful heart, in a poem he says to the Virgin that he is a sinner, and he promises that now, enough for today, he has a clean slate. The last verse is beautiful, it ends thus: “This afternoon, Lady, the promise is sincere, but, just in case, don’t forget to leave me the key outside.” May every penitent leave the confessional knowing that the key is outside and that he can open that door again. It’s clear. Mercy in confessions, mercy.
Well, I don’t want to go on with this, it’s too long. Love transforms and infects. There is a … I jump … this that I had more or less written down but I already said it in one way or another, because I want you to ask questions, otherwise we are going to be very late and after leaving consoled you will go out desolate and cramped (laughs).
There is a problem that’s a scandal; it’s a s
candal. It’s the problem of the division of Christians, it’s the problem of the division of Christians. Ecumenism is one more task to be done; it’s a mandate of Jesus, a mandate of love, expressed at the moment he was going to be handed over. “Father, that they may all be one as you and I are in me, so that the world will believe that you have sent me.” Ecumenism is not only a task; it is to seek the unity of the Body of Christ broken by our sins of division. This afternoon I was preparing the address I must give the Czechs, Catholics,
What does the Spirit say to us today? I would say one thing to you; see how many differences there are among us. I believe that an ordinary Christian doesn’t know what difference exists between a Lutheran, an Orthodox, a Calvinist, a Catholic, an Evangelical, a Baptist; he doesn’t know, but there are those who do know, and it is those who hate Christ. Look at today’s martyrs; look at the blood of the men and women that are dying for Jesus Christ, and those who kill them know that they are the same, one, they believe in Jesus, they know perfectly that they are one, they are not interested in the difference. It is the ecumenism of blood that we are living; it is the blood of our martyrs that is mixed. There is a confession on the part of the devil; they are Christians, they must be exterminated. We are now one in them. I remember once in Germany, a parish priest of Hamburg, was forwarding the Cause of Canonization of a priest who was beheaded in the guillotine during the time of Nazism for teaching catechism to kids and behind him, he realized when he was studying the documents, that immediately after him in the queue a Lutheran pastor was beheaded for the same reason, for teaching catechism to kids; the blood of those two was mixed. This priest went to the Bishop who was not from Hamburg, because the bishopric of Hamburg didn’t exist at that moment but elsewhere, and he said to him: either I follow the case of both of them together or I stop here. Paul VI, fifty years ago now, when he had to canonize the catechists of Uganda, half of them Catholics, half of them Anglicans, all martyred for the same reason, was within an inch of doing it together, and he mentioned them in the homily; he realized that blood unites. That is an ecumenism that already exists; we are already one in the blood of our martyrs; let’s not forget — from there, from the spiritual ecumenism, to pray much for one another, to greet one another. Someone might say to me, Father, but there are such bums that do business with this or that. You know how to discern, but
Every time you are before a difficult decision, especially a decision of mercy, ask yourselves what Jesus would do in your place. That question can help. And before the questions, I would like to mention a temptation. (I see that the difference there is between a Bishop and a priest is that the Bishop has a glass and the priest drinks directly from the bottle.). Sometimes we are tempted to believe that we are the owners of grace, not the dispensers of grace. Grace is not purchased; it is free, it is grace and., speaking of dispensers of grace I ask each and all of you that as part of the current of grace of Charismatic Renewal you organize seminars of life in the Spirit in your parishes and Seminaries, schools, in neighborhoods, to share Baptism in the Spirit; it is catechesis (applause) … it is catechesis so that it produces, by the work of the Holy Spirit, the personal encounter with Jesus who changes our life. I speak to you from experience: when I began to know the Charismatic Movement, this current of grace, I was a young priest, it made me very angry; it seemed to me that they all had something in their head and once, in a sermon speaking of the Holy Spirit, I said that today, some Christians convert the Holy Spirit into a “school of samba”; the years went by and I realized how mistaken I was — it was a grace, a grace.
And let the laity work in peace, don’t clericalize. Clericalism is one of the sins, of the sinful attitudes that break the freedom of the Church. How many times it has happened that a parish priest comes to me to tell me, that I have a wonderful layman in my parish; he does this, he organizes, has a capacity to speak to people and everything. Should we make him a deacon? It is to clericalize. And clericalism is an accomplice sinful attitude; it is like the tango that is danced by two; it is an accomplice, because the priest clericalizes and the layman asks him, please, to clericalize him because it is far more comfortable. Be careful with this sin accomplice of clericalism.
Well, today I have brought you — I don’t know if you were sent — in the different languages that you speak, I speak of languages, no of the tongues that are going to speak during the Mass, which are only understood by the Holy Spirit, but in the language that you speak, Evangeliiu Gaudium and the [Papal] Bull of Mercy, you are going to take them later and I hope they will help you. Thank you for putting up with this hour. For sharing (applause) and I ask you to pray for me, because I need God’s mercy because I want to love Jesus, I want to love him more every day, but I am a sinner, so pray for me, please. Thank you.
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