Jesus Christ is our one hope.
Pope Francis stressed this to faithful during his homily in Kaunas, Lithuania’s second largest city, today, Sept. 23, during his second full day in the country. The visit to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia marks the Pope’s 25th Apostolic Visit abroad.
In his homily, the Pope reflected on how Saint Mark devotes an entire section of his Gospel to the instruction of the Lord’s disciples. It would seem, he said, that Jesus, at the halfway point of his journey to Jerusalem, wanted them to renew their choice to follow him, knowing that it would entail moments of trial and grief.
“The Christian life always involves experiences of the cross,” Pope Francis said, reflecting: “at times they can seem interminable.”
“Earlier generations,” the Holy Father acknowledged, “still bear the scars of the period of the occupation, anguish at those who were deported, uncertainty about those who never returned, shame for those who were informers and traitors. The Book of Wisdom speaks to us of the just who are persecuted, who suffer insult and punishment solely for their goodness.”
The Pope asked: “How many of you can identify at first hand, or in the history of some family member, with that passage which we just read? How many of you have also felt your faith shaken because God did not appear to take your side? Because the fact of your remaining faithful was not enough for him to intervene in your history?”
Kaunas, the Pope said, knows about this, and Lithuania as a whole, can testify to it, “still shuddering at the mention of Siberia, or the ghettos of Vilnius and Kaunas, among others.”
The disciples did not want Jesus to speak to them of sorrows and the cross, the Successor of Peter said, noting “they wanted nothing to do with trials and hardships.”
Jesus, knowing what the disciples were discussing–the Jesuit Pope pointed out–provided them with an antidote to their struggles for power and their rejection of sacrifice. To make His teaching all the more solemn, he sat down, “as a teacher would, summoned them and set a child in their midst; the kind of child that would earn a penny for doing chores no one else would care to do.”
“Whom would Jesus place in our midst today, here, on this Sunday morning? Who will be the smallest, the poorest in our midst, whom we should welcome a hundred years after our independence? Who is it that has nothing to give us, to make our effort and our sacrifices worthwhile?”
Perhaps, he said, it is the ethnic minorities of our city, or the jobless who have to emigrate. Maybe it is the elderly and the lonely, or those young people who find no meaning in life because they have lost their roots.
“In their midst” means at the same distance from everybody, so that no one can claim not to notice, no one can argue that it is “somebody else’s responsibility” because “I didn’t see him”, or “I am further away”.
The Pope reminded “what it means to be a Church on the move,” namely being “unafraid to go out and get involved, even when it might seem that we pour ourselves out, lose ourselves, in going forth to the weak, the neglected, those dwelling at the margins of life.”
Yet also knowing that to go forth also means to halt at times, to set aside our worries and cares, and to notice, to listen to and to accompany those left on the roadside.
That is why we are here today, he said, noting: “We want to welcome Jesus, in his word, in the Eucharist, in his little ones.”
“For this reason, and because as a community we feel true and profound solidarity with all humanity – here in this city and throughout Lithuania – and its history , we wish to spend our lives in joyful service, and thus to make known to all that Jesus Christ is our one hope.”
After the Mass, the Pope recited his Sunday Angelus address.
“Here in Lithuania,” he recalled, “you have a hill of crosses, where thousands of people, over the centuries, have planted the sign of the cross. I ask you, as we now pray the Angelus, to beg Mary to help us all to plant our own cross, the cross of our service and commitment to the needs of others, on that hill where the poor dwell, where care and concern are needed for the outcast and for minorities.”
“In this way,” he continued, “we can keep far from our lives and our cultures the possibility of destroying one another, of marginalizing, of continuing to discard whatever we find troublesome or uncomfortable.”
The Pope also recalled that 75 years ago, Lithuania witnessed the final destruction of the Vilnius Ghetto. Recalling that this was the climax of the killing of thousands of Jews that had started two years earlier, Francis reminded those before him that in the Book of Wisdom, the Jewish people suffered insults and cruel punishments.
“Let us think back on those times, and ask the Lord to give us the gift of discernment to detect in time any recrudescence of that pernicious attitude, any hint of it that can taint the heart of generations that did not experience those times and can sometimes be taken in by such siren songs.”
Saying he wished to dedicate a special thought in these days to the Jewish community, he noted that this afternoon, he will pray before the Monument to the Victims of the Ghetto in Vilnius, on the 75th anniversary of its destruction.
“May the Most High bless dialogue and the shared commitment for justice and peace,” he said.
Pope Francis also concluded thanking the president, authorities, bishops and organizers for all their work for bringing his visit together.
On Zenit’s Webpage:
Angelus Address: https://zenit.org/articles/popes-angelus-address-in-kaunas-lithuania/
Jesus Christ is our one hope.