Prayer is what opens the door….
According to Vatican News, Pope Francis stressed this in his homily today, April 20, during his private daily Mass at his residence Casa Santa Marta, as he reflected on today’s Gospel according to St. John (John 21: 1-14).
At the start of the Mass, while remembering all victims of coronavirus, Francis prayed for politicians during the COVID crisis.
“Let us pray today,” the Pontiff said, “for the men and women who have a political vocation. Politics is a high form of charity.”
The Holy Father also prayed that political parties might “seek together the good of the country and not the good of their own parties.”
In his homily, the Holy Father reflected on the importance of prayer and letting the Holy Spirit operate and help us in our lives.
When the disciples were afraid, faced with difficulties and closed doors, “not knowing how to go forward, they go to the Lord, they open their heart and the Spirit comes and gives them what they need and they go out to preach, with courage, and forward.”
When reflecting on how we can have a new start with the Lord, the Pope encouraged prayer.
“With prayer,” is how we pick up and get started, the Pontiff underscored.
“Prayer is what opens the door to the Spirit and give one this freedom, this boldness, this courage of the Holy Spirit, which one will never know where He will lead one, but it’s the Spirit.”
Pope Francis concluded, praying: “May the Lord help us to be always open to the Spirit, because it will be He who carries us forward in our life of service to the Lord.”
The Masses in Francis’ chapel normally welcome a small group of faithful, but due to recent measures’ taken by the Vatican, are now being kept private, without their participation. The Holy Week and Easter celebrations in the Vatican were also done without the presence of faithful, but were able to be watched via streaming.
Likewise, the Pope had a private Mass for Divine Mercy Sunday, with very limited participation by others, at the Roman Church of Santo Spirito in Sassia. One could watch via streaming.
It was announced at the start of the lockdowns in Italy that the Pope would have these Masses, in this period, be available to all the world’s faithful, via streaming on Vatican Media, on weekdays, at 7 am Rome time, along with his weekly Angelus and General Audiences.
In Italy where more than 23,660 people have died from coronavirus, public Masses are still prohibited. To date, in the Vatican, there have been seven cases of coronavirus; at least two people healed.
The Vatican Museums are now closed, along with the Vatican’s other similar museums. There have also been various guidelines implemented throughout the Vatican, to prevent the spread of the virus.
For anyone interested, the Pope’s Masses at Santa Marta can be watched live and can be watched afterward on Vatican YouTube. Below is a link to today’s Mass. Also, a ZENIT English translation of the Pope’s full homily is available below:
FULL HOMILY [translated by ZENIT’s Virginia Forrester]
This man, Nicodemus, is a ruler of the Jews, an authoritative man. He feels the need to go to Jesus. He went at night because he had to do some balancing, because those that went to speak with Jesus were not well regarded. He is a just Pharisee, because not all Pharisees were bad. No, no, there were also just Pharisees, and this one is a just Pharisee. He felt anxiety, because he is a man who had read the prophets and knew that the prophets announced what Jesus did. He felt anxiety and went to talk with Jesus. “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, “ — it’s a confession, up to a certain point. “No one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him.” And he stops. He stops before the “therefore.” If I say this . . . therefore! . . . And Jesus replies. He replies mysteriously, as he, Nicodemus, didn’t expect. He replies with that figure of birth: if one is not born from above, he cannot see the Kingdom of God. And he, Nicodemus, feels confused; he doesn’t understand and takes Jesus’ reply literally. But how can one be born if one is an adult, a grownup person? To be born from above, to be born of the Spirit is the leap of confession that Nicodemus must do and he doesn’t know how to do it, because the Spirit is unpredictable. The definition of the Spirit that Jesus gives here is interesting: ”The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or wither it goes; so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit,” that is, free. A person that lets himself be carried from one side to the other by the Holy Spirit: this is the freedom of the Spirit. And one who does this is a docile person and here we speak of docility to the Spirit.
To be a Christian isn’t only to obey the Commandments: yes, one must do so; this is true. However, if you stop there, you aren’t a good Christina. To be a good Christians is to let the Spirit enter into you and carry you, to carry you where He wills. Many times, in our Christian life we stop, as Nicodemus, in face of the “therefore,” we don’t know what step to take, we don’t know how to do it, or we don’t have trust in God to take this step and let the Spirit enter. To be born anew is to let the Spirit enter me and that it be the Spirit that guides me and not I and here, free, with this freedom of the Spirit, which one never knows where it will end.
When the Spirit came, the Apostles, who were in the Cenacle, went out to preach with that courage, with that boldness . . . they didn’t know that this would happen, and they did it because the Spirit was guiding them. A Christian must never stop only at complying with the Commandments: yes, he must do so, but he must go beyond, to this new birth, which is birth in the Spirit, which gives one the freedom of the Spirit. It’s what happened to this Christian community of the First Reading, after John and Peter returned from that interrogation they had with the priests. They went to their brothers in this community and referred to all that they had said to the rulers of the priests and the Elders. And when the community heard all this, all of them together, were somewhat scared. And what did they do? They prayed. They didn’t stop at prudential measures. “No, now we do this, we go a bit calmer . . . “No. They pray, so that it is the Spirit that says to them what they must do. They raised their voice to God saying: “Lord!” and they prayed. This beautiful prayer in a dark moment, in a moment when they must take decisions and don’t know what to do. They want to be born of the Spirit; they open their heart to the Spirit, that He may say it to them. And they ask: “Lord, Herod, Pontius Pilate with the nations and the people of Israel allied themselves against your Holy Spirit and Jesus,” they recount the history and say: “Lord, do something!” And now, Lord, look upon their threats,” those of the group of priests, “and grant to thy servants to speak thy word with all boldness” — they ask for boldness, for the courage not to be afraid — “while thou stretches out thy hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of thy holy servant Jesus.” “And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.” A second Pentecost happened here.
In face of the difficulties, in face of a closed door, so that they don’t know how to go forward, they go to the Lord, they open their heart and the Spirit comes and gives them what they need and they go out to preach, with courage, and forward. This is to be born of the Spirit; this is not to stop at the “therefore,” at the “therefore” of the things I’ve always done, at the “therefore” of after the Commandments, at the “therefore” after the religious habits: no! This is to be born again. And how does one prepare to be born again? With prayer — prayer is what opens the door to the Spirit and give one this freedom, this boldness, this courage of the Holy Spirit, which one will never know where He will lead one, but it’s the Spirit.
May the Lord help us to be always open to the Spirit, because it will be He who carries us forward in our life of service to the Lord.
The Pope ended the celebration with Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction, inviting the faithful to make a Spiritual Communion.
Here Is the Prayer Recited by the Pope:
I prostrate myself at your Feet, O my Jesus, and I offer You the repentance of my contrite heart, which abases itself in its nothingness and in your holy Presence. I adore You in the Sacrament of your Love, the Eucharist. I desire to receive you in the poor abode that my heart offers You; while waiting for the happiness of Sacramental Communion, I want to possess You in spirit. Come to me, O my Jesus, so that I may come to You. May your Love be able to inflame my whole being in life and in death. I believe in You, I hope in You, I love You.
Before leaving the Chapel dedicated to the Holy Spirit, the Marian antiphon Regina Caeli” was intoned, sung in Eastertide:
Regina caeli laetare, alleluia.
Quia quem meruisti portare, alleluia.
Resurrexit sicut dixit, alleluia.
Ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia.
(Queen of Heaven rejoice, alleluia.
Christ, whom you bore in your womb, alleluia,
Is risen as He promised, alleluia.
Pray for us to the Lord, alleluia).