Because all faithful belong to God, they should not be afraid and should stand strong in the faith. The Holy Father gave this advice this morning during his homily at the Mass held at the University of Nairobi, after having met with other faith leaders at the apostolic nunciature.
Pope Francis is making his first Apostolic Visit to Africa, Nov. 25-30. Tomorrow afternoon, he departs from Kenya’s capital of Nairobi, before moving on to the capitals of Uganda and Central African Republic. This marked Pope Francis’ first Mass in the Eastern African nation, which he celebrated in English. The Mass took place in a festive atmosphere with moments of dance and song. Even with umbrellas for the rain, the joy of the thousands gathered could not be diminished.
During his homily, the Pope praised the strong family life of Kenyan Catholics, characterized by deep respect for the wisdom of the elderly and love for children. He also reminded them that the health of a society depends on the health of its families.
The Pontiff reflected on today’s reading from the prophet Isaiah, in which the Lord says, “Fear not … I have chosen you and I promise to give you my blessing.” The Holy Father expressed that God’s word here “speaks to us in the depths of our heart.” Today, the Pontiff highlighted, “God tells us that we belong to him. He made us, we are his family, and he will always be there for us.”
The Holy Father went on to say how Isaiah’s prophecy invites us to look to our own families, and to realize how important they are in God’s plan. For their sake, the Argentine Pope said, we are called to support families in their mission in society, to accept children as a blessing for our world, and to defend the dignity of each man and woman, for all of us are brothers and sisters in the one human family.
“In obedience to God’s word, we are also called to resist practices which foster arrogance in men, hurt or demean women, do not look after the elderly and threaten the life of the innocent unborn,” the Pope exhorted.
After warning against such practices, he instructed the faithful to respect and encourage one another, and to reach out to all those in need. “Christian families have this special mission: to radiate God’s love, and to spread the life-giving waters of his Spirit,” he said.
“This is especially important today, for we are seeing the growth of new deserts created by a culture of materialism selfishness and indifference to others.”
Acknowledging he was speaking in the heart of a university, where minds and hearts of new generations are being shaped, he issued an appeal to the young people: “Let the great values of Africa’s traditions, the wisdom and truth of God’s word, and the generous idealism of your youth guide you in working to shape a society which is ever more just, inclusive and respectful of human dignity. May you always be concerned for the needs of the poor, and reject everything that leads to prejudice and discrimination, for these things, we know, are not of God.”
The Lord, the Pope explained, wants us to build our lives on solid foundations. “He asks us to be missionary disciples, men and women who radiate the truth, beauty and life-changing power of the Gospel. Men and women who are channels of God’s grace, who enable his mercy, kindness and truth to become the building blocks of a house that stands firm. “
Pope Francis stressed the need to live in harmony and mutual respect, in obedience to God’s will, which will bring us the freedom and peace for which our hearts long.
“Stand strong in faith! Do not be afraid! For you belong to the Lord,” the Pope encouraged, before concluding with some words in Swahili. “Mungu awabariki! [God bless you!] Mungu abariki Kenya! [God bless Kenya!]”
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