As he began Mass in the Casa Santa Marta on Wednesday morning, Pope Francis urged all nations to be united as they face the Covid-19 pandemic, reported Vatican News. The Holy Father prayed especially for Europe, stating his desire that it address today’s situation in the matter hoped for by the founding fathers of the European Union.
“At this moment in which unity is very necessary between ourselves and between nations, we pray today for Europe, so that Europe might succeed in creating this fraternal unity dreamt of by the founding fathers of the European Union,” Pope Francis said.
In his homily, said Vatican News, the Pope reflected on Jesus’ words to Nicodemus in the day’s Gospel (Jn 3:16-21): “God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”
Pope Francis said this passage contains a wealth of theological revelation about Redemption. He focused his attention on two aspects: the revelation of God’s love and the existential choice between light and darkness.
“God loves us,” said the Pope. “He loves us madly. As one saint used to say, God’s love seems like madness.”
The cross, said Pope Francis, is the highest expression of this love. He added that everything is revealed to those who contemplate the cross.
“So many people, so many Christians, pass time gazing at the Crucified… And there they find everything because they have understood. The Holy Spirit teaches them that therein lies all science, all of God’s love, and all Christian wisdom. Saint Paul speaks about this, explaining that all human reasoning is useful only up to a certain point. But true reasoning – the most beautiful way of thinking which also explains everything – is the cross of Christ, is Christ crucified, who is scandal and madness. But He is the way. And this is the love of God. God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son. Why? So that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life. This is the love of the Father who wants His children with Him.”
Pope Francis then reflected on the choice between light and darkness. He said there are some people – “including us sometimes” – who are unable to live in the light because they have become accustomed to darkness.
“Light blinds them and they cannot see. They are like human bats: they can only move about during the night. We ourselves, when we are in a state of sin, find ourselves in this condition, unable to tolerate the light. It is easier to live in the darkness; light slaps us on the face and shows us what we don’t want to see.”
Though it is difficult to face what the light reveals to us, said Pope Francis, it is worse when the eyes of the soul become ignorant of the light.
“So many human scandals and corruption teach us this. Those who are corrupt do not know what the light is, and don’t recognize it.”
Pope Francis concluded inviting us to let the light of God’s love shine in our lives through the Holy Spirit. And we can ask ourselves:
“Do I walk in the light or in darkness? Am I a child of God? Or have I ended up like a bat?”
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 24,000 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:
The Pope’s Homily According to the Transcription of Vatican News
This passage of John’s Gospel — chapter 3 –, the dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus, is a true treatise of Theology: everything is here, in this chapter. And every time we read it, we find more richness, more explanations, more things that make us understand God’s revelation. It would be good to read it many times, to approach the mystery of Redemption. Today I will take up only two points of all this, two points that are in today’s passage.
The first is the revelation of the love of God. God loves us and loves us — as a Saint says –, <to> madness: God’s love seems madness. He loves us: “He so loved the world as to give His Only-Begotten Son.” He has given His Son, He has sent His Son and He sent Him to die on the cross. Every time that we look at the crucifix, we find this love. The crucifix is, in fact, the great book of the love of God. It’s not an object to put here or there, more beautiful, not so beautiful, older, more modern . . . no. It is precisely the expression of God’s love. God has loved us so: He sent His Son, who annihilated Himself to death on the cross out of love. God so loved the world as to give His Son.
How many people, how many Christians spend their time looking at the crucifix– and they find everything there, because they have understood; the Holy Spirit has made them understand all the science, all the love of God, all Christian wisdom is there. Paul speaks of this, explaining that all the human reasoning he does is useful up to a certain point, but true reasoning, the most beautiful way of thinking, but also what explains everything, is the cross of Christ, is Christ crucified, which is scandal and madness but is the way. And this is the love of God. God so loved the world as to give His Only-Begotten Son. And why? So that whoever believes in Him may not be lost but have eternal life. It is the love of the Father who wants His children with Him.
To look at the crucifix in silence, to look at the wounds, to look at the heart of Jesus, to look at the whole: Christ crucified, the Son of God, annihilated, humiliated . . . out of love. This is the first point that this treatise of Theology makes us see today, which is Jesus’ dialogue with Nicodemus.
The second point is a point that will also help us: “The light came into the world, but men loved the darkness more than the light because their works were evil.” Jesus also takes up again this question of light. There are people — we too, many times — that can’t live in the light because they are used to the darkness; the light dazzles them, they are incapable of seeing. They are human bats: they can only move in the night. And we too, when we are in sin, are in this state; the light smacks us, it makes us see what we don’t want to see. But the worst <thing> is that the eyes, the eyes of the soul, from living so much in the darkness are used to it to such a point that they end up ignoring what the light is. And the many human scandals, the many corruptions point this out to us. The corrupt don’t know what the light is; they don’t know it. We too, when we are in a state of sin, in a state of estrangement from the Lord, become blind and we feel better in the darkness and we go thus, without seeing, as the blind, moving as we can.
Let’s let the love of God, who sent Jesus to save us, enter us, and the light that Jesus brings, the light of the Spirit enters us and help us to see things with the light of God, with the true light and not with the darkness that the lord of darkness gives us.
Two things today: the love of God in Christ, in the crucifix, in the everyday. And the daily question we can ask ourselves: “Do I walk in the light or do I walk in the darkness? Am I a child of God or have I ended up being a poor bat?”
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:
My Jesus, I believe You are really present in the Most Holy Sacrament of the altar. I love You above all things and I desire You in my soul. As I cannot receive You sacramentally now, come at least spiritually into my heart. As if You have already come, I embrace you and unite myself wholly to You. Do not permit me to be ever separated from 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.
(O 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).
Translation by Virginia M. Forrester