Pope Francis has cautioned that ambition and careerism are incompatible with Christian discipleship and has called for humility and service.
The Pope gave this warning in his homily this morning during the Canonization Mass for Blesseds Vincenzo Grossi, Maria dell'Immacolata Concezione, and parents of St. Therese of Lisieux, Ludovico Martin and Maria Azelia Guérin, in St. Peter's Square. Drawing inspiration from today's readings, the Jesuit Pope noted how they present the theme of service and call us to follow Jesus on the path of humility and the Cross, just as these new saints had done.
Jesus is the Servant of the Lord
Christ's life and death, "marked by an attitude of utter service," were the cause of our salvation and the reconciliation of mankind with God, the Pope said. "The kerygma, the heart of the Gospel," he added, "testifies that His death and Resurrection fulfilled the prophecies of the Servant of the Lord."
In the Gospel, Francis explained, Saint Mark tells us how Jesus confronted His disciples, James and John, who, urged on by their mother, wanted to sit at His right and left in God’s Kingdom, to claim places "of honor in accordance with their own hierarchical vision of the Kingdom."
"Their horizon was still clouded by illusions of earthly fulfilment," the Pope pointed out, saying, "Jesus then gives a first 'jolt' to their notions by speaking of his own earthly journey." Jesus assures the two that they can fully partake of his destiny of suffering, without, however, promising their sought-after places of honor. His response, the Pope underscored, is to invite them to follow Him along the path of love and service, and to reject the worldly temptation of seeking the first place and commanding others.
"Faced with people who seek power and success, the disciples are called to do the opposite," the Pontiff said, stressing that Jesus warned them and demonstrated that service is the way for authority to be exercised in the Christian community.
"Those who serve others and lack real prestige exercise genuine authority in the Church. Jesus calls us to see things differently, to pass from the thirst for power to the joy of quiet service, to suppress our instinctive desire to exercise power over others, and instead to exercise the virtue of humility," the Pope said.
After proposing a model not to imitate, Francis recalled, Jesus then offers Himself as the ideal to be followed. By imitating the Master, the Pope continued, the community gains a new outlook on life: 'The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.'
The Holy Father went on to say that Jesus fills this image with new meaning. "He shows us that he enjoys dominion because he is a servant, glory because he is capable of abasement, kingship because he is fully prepared to lay down his life. By his passion and death, he takes the lowest place, attains the heights of grandeur in service, and bestows this upon his Church."
"There can be no compatibility between a worldly understanding of power and the humble service which must characterize authority according to Jesus’ teaching and example," he said. The Letter to the Hebrews, Francis explained, makes this clear by presenting Jesus as the high priest who completely shares our human condition, with the exception of sin: 'We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin' (4:15).
The Holy Father stressed that Jesus exercised a true priesthood of mercy and compassion.
"He knows our difficulties at first hand, he knows from within our human condition; the fact that he is without sin does not prevent him from understanding sinners. His glory is not that born of ambition or the thirst for power; it is is the glory of one who loves men and women, who accepts them and shares in their weakness, who offers them the grace which heals and restores, and accompanies them with infinite tenderness amid their tribulations."
Each of us, through baptism, share in our own way in Christ’s priesthood, the Pontiff explained, noting that the lay faithful do so in the common priesthood, priests in the ministerial priesthood.
"Consequently, all of us can receive the charity which flows from his open heart, for ourselves, but also for others. We become 'channels' of his love and compassion, especially for those who are suffering, discouraged and alone."
Follow example of those canonized
"The men and women canonized today," the Pope said, "unfailingly served their brothers and sisters with outsanding humility and charity, in imitation of the divine Master. Saint Vincent Grossi was a zealous parish priest, ever attentive to the needs of his people, especially those of the young. For all he was concerned to break the bread of God’s word, and thus became a Good Samaritan to those in greatest need."
Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception, he highlighted, devoted her life, with great humility, to serving the least of our brothers and sisters, especially the children of the poor and the sick.
Spouses Louis Martin and Marie-Azélie Guérin, Francis noted, practiced Christian service in the family, "creating day by day an environment of faith and love which nurtured the vocations of their daughters, among whom was Saint Therese of the Child Jesus."
"The radiant witness of these new saints inspires us to persevere in joyful service to our brothers and sisters, trusting in the help of God and the maternal protection of Mary. From heaven may they now watch over us and sustain us by their powerful intercession," he said.
Angelus Appeal, Advice
During Pope Francis' Angelus address following the conclusion of the Mass, the Pope said he follows with great concern the situation of tension and violence that afflicts the Holy Land.
"In this moment, there is a need for much courage and much fortitude to say no to the hatred and revenge and to make gestures of peace. For this, we pray that God reinforces in all governments and citizens the courage to oppose violence and to take concrete steps to thaw [the situation]. In the current context of the Middle East, it is, more than ever, crucial that there would be peace in the Holy Land: this we ask God and the good of humanity."
The Argentine Pontiff who has always had a great devotion to St. Therese also reminded those gathered to look to the new saints for guidance, specifically saying, "We entrust our joys, hopes and difficulties of French families and of all around the world to the intercession of the spouses and now Saints, Ludovico Martin and Maria Azelia Guérin."
On ZENIT's Web page:
Angelus Address: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/full-text-pope-s-angelus-address