“Teach prayer by praying, announce the faith by believing; offer witness by living!” Pope Francis gave this three-pronged advice during yesterday’s celebration of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul at St. Peter’s Basilica. Thousands of faithful were gathered along with the traditional presence of a delegation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
The Pope began by saying he would like to pay homage to the courage of the Apostles and that of the first Christian community, which, he added, carried forward the work of evangelization, free of fear of death and martyrdom, within the social context of a pagan empire. For us Christians of today, he underscored, their Christian lives give three powerful calls: to prayer, faith and witness.
“The Church wants you to be men of prayer, masters of prayer; that you may teach the people entrusted to your care that liberation from all forms of imprisonment is uniquely God’s work and the fruit of prayer; that God sends his angel at the opportune time in order to save us from the many forms of slavery and countless chains of worldliness.”
In prayer, the Holy Father observed, believers express their faith and their trust, and God reveals his closeness, also by giving us the angels, his messengers.
“For those most in need, may you also be angels and messengers of charity!” he urged.
Despite all the angels God places on our path, we still allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by fear, unbelief or even euphoria, Francis said, noting, “we leave them outside the door.”
“No Christian community can go forward without being supported by persistent prayer!” Prayer is the encounter with God, the Pope said, stressing God never lets us down, is faithful to His word, and does not abandon his children.
Turning to the second call, the Pope said, “the Church desires you to be men of faith, masters of faith, who can teach the faithful to not be frightened of the many Herods who inflict on them persecution with every kind of cross. No Herod is able to banish the light of hope, of faith, or of charity in the one who believes in Christ!”
God does not take his children out of the world or away from evil, Pope Francis explained, but does grant them strength to prevail.
“How many forces in the course of history have tried, and still do, to destroy the Church, from without as well as within, but they themselves are destroyed and the Church remains alive and fruitful!” Francis noted.
“Everything passes, only God remains. Indeed, kingdoms, peoples, cultures, nations, ideologies, powers have passed, but the Church, founded on Christ, notwithstanding the many storms and our many sins, remains ever faithful to the deposit of faith shown in service; for the Church does not belong to Popes, bishops, priests, nor the lay faithful; the Church in every moment belongs solely to Christ. ”
Following the examples of Peter and Paul, the 78-year-old Pontiff said, living holy lives promotes and defends the Church. In the name of Christ, the Pope went on to say, believers have raised the dead, healed the sick, loved their persecutors, and “shown there is no power capable of defeating the one who has the power of faith!”
On the third call to witness, the Pope began noting how Peter and Paul, along with the Apostles–in their ‘earthly lives’–became God’s friends and with their martyrdom sowed the seeds of the Church.
Reflecting on how their lives gave witness, Francis stressed, “A Church or a Christian who does not give witness is sterile; like a dead person who thinks they are alive; like a dried up tree that produces no fruit; an empty well that offers no water! The Church has overcome evil thanks to the courageous, concrete and humble witness of her children. She has conquered evil thanks to proclaiming with conviction: ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’ (cf. Mt 16:13-18).”
The Pontiff exhorted the new archbishops to be men of witness, reminding them what Saint Francis used to tell his brothers: ‘Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words!’ ‘There is no witness without a coherent lifestyle! ‘ the Pope said. “This is not so straightforward: because the most effective and authentic witness is one that does not contradict, by behavior and lifestyle, what is preached with the word and taught to others!”
Addressing the archbishops who would be receiving the Pallium– ‘a liturgical sign of communion that unites the See of Peter and his Successor to the Metropolitans, and through them to the other Bishops of the world (Benedict XVI, Angelus of 29 June 2005)’–Pope Francis entrusted them with this call to prayer, to faith and to witness.
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