Here is a translation of Pope Francis’ homily from a Mass he celebrated on his day-trip to Florence today.
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In today’s Gospel Jesus asks his disciples two questions. The first: “”Who do men say that the Son of Man is?” (Matthew 16:13). It is a question that shows how much Jesus’ heart and look are open to all. Jesus wants to know what the people think, not to content them but to communicate with them. Without knowing what people think, a disciple is isolated and begins to judge the people according to his own thoughts and his own convictions. The only way to be able to help, form and communicate with them is to maintain a healthy contact with the reality, with what the people live, with their tears and their joys. It is the only way to speak to people’s hearts, touching their daily experiences: work, family, health problems, traffic, school, health services. It is the only way to open their hearts to listen to God. In reality, when God wanted to speak with us He incarnated Himself. Jesus’ disciples must never forget from where they were chosen, that is, from among the people, and they must never fall into the temptation to assume detached attitudes, as if what the people think and live does not concern them and is not important for them.
This is true also for us. And the fact that today we are gathered to celebrate Holy Mass in a sports stadium reminds us of it. Like Jesus, the Church lives in the midst of the people and for the people. Therefore, in her whole history the Church has always borne in herself the same question: who is Jesus for the men and women of today?
The holy Pope Leo the Great, native of Tuscany, whose Memoria we celebrate today, also bore this question, this apostolic anxiety in his heart: that all might know Jesus, and to know Him for what He truly is, not a distorted image of him of the philosophies and ideologies of the time. Hence, it is necessary to mature a personal faith in Him. And here, now, is the second question that Jesus asks his disciples: “But who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15). A question that still resounds today in our conscience as His disciples, and it is decisive for our identity and our mission. Only if we acknowledge Jesus in His truth, will we be able to look at the truth of our human condition, and be able to make our contribution to the full humanization of society.
To keep and proclaim correct faith in Jesus Christ is the heart of our Christian identity, because in recognizing the mystery of the Son of God made man we will be able to penetrate the mystery of God and the mystery of man.
Simon answers Jesus’ question: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (v. 16). This answers encloses Peter’s whole mission and summarizes what will become the Petrine ministry for the Church, namely to guard and proclaim the truth of the faith; to defend and promote communion among all the Churches; to keep the discipline of the Church. In this mission Pope Leo was and remains an exemplary model, be it in his luminous teachings, be it in his gestures full of meekness, of compassion and the strength of God.
Also today, dear brothers and sisters, our joy is to share this faith and to respond together to the Lord Jesus: “For us you are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Our joy is also to go against the current and to surmount the current opinion that today, as then, is unable to see in Jesus more than a prophet or a teacher. Our joy is to recognize in him the presence of God, the One sent by the Father, the Son who came to make Himself instrument of salvation for humanity. This profession of faith that Simon Peter proclaimed remains also for us. It does not only represent the foundation of our salvation, but also the way through which it is accomplished and the end to which it tends.
In fact, at the root of the mystery of salvation is the will of a merciful God, who does not want to yield in face of the misunderstanding, the guilt and the misery of man, but He gives Himself to him to the point of making Himself man to meet every person in his/her concrete situation. This merciful love of God is what Simon Peter recognizes on Jesus’ face. The same face that we are called to recognize in the ways in which the Lord has assured us of his presence in our midst: in his Word, which illumines the darkness of our mind and of our heart; in his Sacraments, which regenerate us to new life from every death of ours; in the fraternal communion that the Holy Spirit generates among his disciples; in the boundless love, which makes itself generous and solicitous service to all; in the poor, which reminds us how Jesus wanted the supreme revelation of Himself and of the Father to have the image of the humiliated crucified One.
This truth of the faith is a truth that scandalizes, because it asks to believe in Jesus who, though being God, emptied himself, lowered himself to the condition of a servant, to the point of death on the cross, and therefore God made him Lord of the universe (cf. Philippians 2:6-11). It is the truth that again today scandalizes one who does not tolerate the mystery of God printed on the face of Christ. It is the truth that we cannot touch and embrace without – as Saint Paul says – entering in the mystery of Jesus Christ, and without making his sentiments our own (cf. Philippians 2:5). Only from Christ’s Heart can we understand, profess and live His truth.
In reality, communion between the divine and human, realized fully in Jesus, is our end, the point of arrival of human history according to the Father’s plan. It is the beatitude of the encounter between our weakness and His greatness, between our littleness and his mercy, which will fill our limit. However this end is not only the horizon that illumines our way but it is what attracts us with its gentle strength; it is what one begins to relish and to live, which is built day after day with every good that we sow around us. These are the seeds that contribute to create a new humanity, renewed, where no one is left on the margins or discarded; where the one who serves is the greatest; where the little and the poor are received and helped.
God and man are not two extremes of an opposition: they have always been seeking one another, because God recognizes in man His own image and man recognizes himself only by looking at God. This is true wisdom, which the Book of Sirach points out as the characteristic of one who adheres to the following of the Lord. It is the wisdom of Saint Leo the Great, fruit of the convergence of several elements: word, intelligence, prayer, teaching and memory. But Saint Leo reminds us also that there cannot be true wisdom except in the bond with Christ and in the service of the Church. This is the way on which we cross humanity and can encounter it with the spirit of the Good Samaritan. It is no accident that humanism, of which Florence was witness in its most creative moments, has always had the face of charity. May this legacy be fruitful of a new humanism for this city and for the whole of Italy.
[Original text: Italian]
[Translation by ZENIT]