The Gospel is our program of life…
Pope Francis stressed this when presiding over the Eucharistic Celebration tonight, May 23, for Caritas Internationalis which has in progress their 21st General Assembly, with the theme “One Human Family, One Common Home”, inspired by Pope Francis’ Encyclical Laudato Si’, (Rome, May 23-28, 2019). The General Assembly was presented today, in the Holy See Press Office.
In his homily, the Holy Father reminded those at the Mass how God chose to send the Holy Spirit to help us, and cautioned against hyper-efficiency.
“Abide in my love” (John 15:9): it’s what Jesus asks in the Gospel. How is it done? It’s necessary to be close to Him, broken Bread.
The Holy Father encouraged faithful to do this by being “before the Tabernacle and before the many living tabernacles that are the poor.”
“The Eucharist and the poor, fixed Tabernacle and mobile tabernacles: there one abides in love and absorbs the mentality of the broken Bread. There one understands the ‘how’ of which Jesus speaks: ‘As the Father has love Me, so have I loved you.'”
Francis then asked those present: “how did the Father love Jesus?” “Giving Him everything, not keeping anything for Himself,” he answered, reminding: “We say it in the Creed: “God of God, light of light,” He has given Him everything.”
“When, instead, we hold back from giving, when our interests to defend are in the first place,” the Holy Father pointed out, “we don’t imitate the how of God, we are not a free and liberating Church.”
“Jesus asks that we abide in Him, not in our ideas; to come out of the pretense of controlling and managing, He asks to trust the other and to give ourselves to the other,” he said.
Pope Francis concluded, praying: “Let us ask the Lord to free us from hyper-efficiency, from worldliness, from the subtle temptation of rendering worship to ourselves and our bravery; let us ask for the grace to take up the way indicated by the Word of God: humility, communion, renunciation.”
Here is a ZENIT working translation of Pope Francis’ homily at the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica:
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The Holy Father’s Homily
In today’s Reading of the Acts of the Apostles, the Word of God recounts the first great meeting of the history of the Church. An unexpected situation was being verified: the pagans were coming to the faith. And a question arises: must they also adapt themselves, as others, to all the norms of the old Law? It was a difficult decision to take, and the Lord was no longer present. One might wonder, why did Jesus not leave a suggestion to settle at least this first “great discussion” (Acts 15:7)? A small indication to the Apostles would be enough, who for years were with Him every day. Why didn’t Jesus always give clear and speedily decisive rules?
Here is the temptation of hyper-efficiency, of thinking that the Church is okay if she has everything under control, if she lives without jolts, with the agenda always in order. However, the Lord doesn’t proceed in this way. In fact, He doesn’t send His own answer from Heaven; He sends the Holy Spirit. And the Spirit doesn’t come bringing the order of the day; He comes with fire. Jesus doesn’t want the Church to be a perfect little model, pleased with her organization and capable of defending her good name. Jesus didn’t live thus but, on the way, without fearing life’s jolts. The Gospel is our program of life. It teaches us that questions aren’t addressed with a ready recipe and that the faith isn’t a schedule, but a ‘Way” (Acts 9:2), to follow together, always together, with a spirit of trust. From the account of the Acts we learn three essential elements for the Church on the way: the humility of listening, the charism of the whole, the courage of renunciation.
We begin from the end, from the courage of renunciation. The success of that great discussion was not to impose something new, but to leave something of the old. However, those first Christians did not abandon things for nothing: it had to do with important religious traditions and precepts, dear to the Chosen People. At stake was their religious identity. However, they chose that the Lord’s proclamation comes first and is worth more than all. For the good of the mission, to proclaim to each one in a transparent and credible way, that God is love those human convictions and traditions, which are more obstacles than help, can and must also be left behind. We too have the need to rediscover together the beauty of renunciation, first of all of ourselves. Saint Peter says that the Lord “purified hearts by faith” (Cf. Acts 15:9). God purifies, simplifies, often make one grow by taking away, not adding, as we would do. True faith purifies from attachments. To follow the Lord, it’s necessary to walk fast and, to walk fast, it’s necessary to lighten oneself, even if it costs. As Church, we are not called to business compromises, but to evangelical leaps. And, in purifying ourselves, in reforming ourselves we must avoid window-dressing, namely, feigning to change something but in reality, nothing changes. This happens, for example, when, seeking to be in step with the times one touches the surface of things, but it’s only makeup to seem young. The Lord doesn’t want cosmetic adjustments; He wants conversion of the heart, which passes through renunciation. The fundamental reform is to come out of oneself.
Let’s see how the first Christians fared. They arrived at the courage of renunciation beginning from the humility of listening. They exercised themselves in indifference to self: we see that each one let the other speak and was ready to change his own convictions. Only one who lets the voice of the other truly enter him is able to listen. And when interest in others grows, indifference to self increases; one becomes humble following the way of listening, which holds back from wanting to affirm oneself, of taking one’s own ideas resolutely forward, of seeking consensus by any means. Humility is born when, instead if talking, one listens, when one ceases to be at the center. Then it grows through humiliations. It’s the way of humble service, which Jesus followed. It’s on this way of charity that the Spirit descends and directs. For one who wants to follow the way of charity, of humility, and of listening it means the ear itself <open> to the little ones. Let us look again at the first Christians: they are all silent to listen to Barnabas and Paul. They were the last to arrive, but they let them refer to all that God had accomplished through them (Cf. v. 12). It’s always important to listen to the voice of all, especially of the little ones and the least. The world that has more means speaks more, but among us it can’t be so, because God loves to reveal Himself through the little ones and the least. And he asks each one not to look at anyone from the top down.
And, finally, the listening of life: Paul and Barnabas recount experiences, not ideas. This is how the Church does discernment: not before a computer, but before the reality of persons. Persons before programs, with the humble look that is able to see in others the presence of God, who doesn’t dwell in the greatness of what we do, but in the littleness of the poor we encounter. If we don’t look at them directly, we end up always by looking at ourselves, and making of them instruments to affirm ourselves.
From the humility of listening to the courage of renunciation, all passes through the charism of the whole. In fact, in the discussion of the early Church unity always prevailed over differences. For each one, one’s preferences and strategies are not in the first place, but being and feeling oneself Church of Jesus, gathered around Peter, in a charity that doesn’t create uniformity but communion. No one knew everything, no one had the whole of the charisms, but each one held to the charism of the whole. It’s essential, because the good cannot be truly done without loving one another. What was the secret of those Christians? They had different sensibilities and orientations; there were even strong personalities, but there was the strength of loving one another in the Lord. We see it in James who, at the moment of drawing the conclusions, says few words of his own and quotes a lot the Word of God (Cf. vv. 16-18) He lets the Word speak. Whereas the voices of the devil and the world lead to division, the voice of the Good Shepherd forms only one flock. Thus, the community is founded on the Word of God and abides in His love.
“Abide in my love” (John 15:9): it’s what Jesus asks in the Gospel. How is it done? It’s necessary to be close to Him, broken Bread. It helps us to be before the Tabernacle and before the many living tabernacles that are the poor. The Eucharist and the poor, fixed Tabernacle and mobile tabernacles: there one abides in love and absorbs the mentality of the broken Bread. There one understands the “how” of which Jesus speaks: “As the Father has love Me, so have I loved you” (Ibid.) And how did the Father love Jesus? Giving Him everything, not keeping anything for Himself. We say it in the Creed: “God of God, light of light,” He has given Him everything. When, instead, we hold back from giving, when our interests to defend are in the first place, we don’t imitate the how of God, we are not a free and liberating Church. Jesus asks that we abide in Him, not in our ideas; to come out of the pretense of controlling and managing, He asks to trust the other and to give ourselves to the other. Let us ask the Lord to free us from hyper-efficiency, from worldliness, from the subtle temptation of rendering worship to ourselves and our bravery; let us ask for the grace to take up the way indicated by the Word of God: humility, communion, renunciation.
[Original text: Italian] [Working Translation of Pope’s prepared homily by ZENIT’s Virginia M. Forrester]
The Gospel is our program of life…