Pope's Morning Homily: When World Deserts You, God Remains

At Casa Santa Marta, Warns Faithful Apostles Can Expect Same End Jesus Faced

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A ‘good shepherd’ is one who follows Jesus to the very end, even if they are left without money and means and company, and does so without letting oneself become bitter nor resentful.
According to Vatican Radio, this was at the heart of Pope Francis’ homily today during his daily morning Mass at his residence Casa Santa Marta.
Drawing inspiration from the Second Letter to Timothy, Francis’ homily examined the struggles the Apostles, including Paul, face late in their lives when they had been deserted and left with nothing.
“Alone, begging, abandoned by all and the victim of fury. But this is the great Paul, the man who heard the voice of the Lord, the call of the Lord!…. who made the Apostles understand that the Lord wants Gentiles to enter into the Church as well,” Francis pondered, adding the irony that his life ends “in desolation: not in resentment or bitterness but with an inner desolation.”
Peter and St John the Baptist, Francis also stressed, suffered similar privations in the final stage of their lives. The latter, he highlighted, even had his head cut off owing to “the caprice of a dancer and the revenge of an adulterous woman.”
More recently, the Jesuit Pope continued, we see the same for Maximilian Kolbe, who created a worldwide apostolic movement and yet died in the prison cell of a death camp.
Faithful apostles, the Holy Father lamented, know they too can expect the same end that Jesus faced.
But Don’t Forget
Despite this sad reality, Francis reminded,  the Lord stays close and does not abandon them and offers them strength.
“This is the Law of the Gospel: if the grain of wheat doesn’t die it doesn’t produce new seeds” and reminded that a theologian of the early centuries wrote that the blood of martyrs are the seeds of Christians.
“To die in this way like martyrs, as witnesses of Jesus, is the grain that dies and gives rise to new seeds and fills the earth with new Christians. When a pastor lives like this he is not embittered: maybe he feels desolate but he has that certainty that the Lord is beside him.
“When a pastor during his life was attached to other things, rather than to the faithful – for example he was attached to power, money, being part of a clique, to many things – then at his death he won’t be alone, maybe his grandchildren (heirs) will be there waiting for him to die so they can see what possessions they can take away with them.”
Francis described the attitude of many elderly priests now living in retirement homes who despite their sufferings remain close to the Lord.
“When I go to visit the retirement homes for elderly priests I find so many of these great shepherds who have given their lives for the faithful. There they are, sick, paralyzed, in wheelchairs but you can see them smiling straight away. ‘He’s well, Lord; he’s well, Lord,’ because they feel the Lord very close to them. They have these shining eyes and they are asking: ‘how is the Church? How is the diocese faring? How are vocations going?’ (It’s this way) right to the end because they are fathers, because they gave their lives for others.”
Francis recalled again how Paul realized that as all had deserted him, the only one who always remained at his side was the Lord.
“The Good Shepherd, the shepherd must have this certainty,” Francis stressed, “if he journeys along the path of Jesus, the Lord will be close to him right to the end.”
Pope Francis concluded, praying, “Let us pray for the shepherds who are at the end of their lives and who are waiting for the Lord to take them with Him. And let us pray so that the Lord may give them strength, consolation and the certainty that, although they feel sick and alone, the Lord is with them, close to them. May the Lord give them this strength.”

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Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is Senior Vatican & Rome Correspondent for ZENIT; author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in 5 languages); Deborah is also NBC & MSNBC Vatican Analyst. She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, often from the Papal Flight (including for historic trips such as to Abu Dhabi and Japan & Thailand), and has also asked him questions on the return-flight press conference on behalf of the English-speaking press present. Lubov has done much TV & radio commentary, including for NBC, Sky, EWTN, BBC, Vatican Radio, AP, Reuters and more. She also has contributed to various books on the Pope and has written for various Catholic publications. For 'The Other Francis': http://www.gracewing.co.uk/page219.html or https://www.amazon.com/Other-Francis-Everything-They-about/dp/0852449348/

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