On the feast of Saint Catherine of Siena, Doctor of the Church and Patroness of Italy and of Europe, Pope Francis directed his thoughts to Europe, as he has done on other occasions these days marked by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the Mass celebrated in the Chapel of Casa Santa Marta on Wednesday, April 29, 2020, the Holy Father expressed his desire that “We pray for Europe, for the unity of Europe, for the unity of the European Union, so that we can all go forward as brothers.”
In his homily, the Pontiff reflected on the First Letter of Saint John (1 John 1:5-2, 2), in which the Apostle affirms that God is Light and if we say that we are in communion with Him, we are also in communion with one another, and the Blood of Jesus purifies us of all sin.
“He who says he has no sin deceives himself; however, if he confesses his sin, God forgive him and cleanses him from all iniquity,” said the Holy Father, noting that the Apostle “calls to concretion, to truth: he says we cannot walk in the light and at the same time be in the darkness.”
Following the teachings of today’s Gospel according to Saint Matthew (11:25-30), in which Jesus praises the Father because He hid the Gospel from the wise and understanding and revealed it to little ones, the Pontiff pointed out that “little ones confess their sins in a simple way, they say concrete things because they have the simplicity that God gives them.” Therefore, “we must also be simple and concrete and confess our sins with concrete humility and shame. And the Lord forgives us: we must name our sins.”
Pope’s Homily According to the Transcription of Vatican News
In the First Letter of the Apostle Saint John, there are many contrasts between light and darkness, between lies and truth, between sin and innocence (Cf. 1 John 1:5-7). However, the Apostle always calls to concreteness, to truth, and he says to us that we cannot be in communion with Jesus and walk in darkness because He is Light. Either one thing or the other: grey is even worse because grey makes you believe that you walk in the light because you aren’t in darkness and this calms you. Grey is very treacherous — either one thing or the other.
The Apostle continues: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8) because we all have sin; we are all sinners. And here there is something that can deceive us: saying: “We are all sinners” as one who says “good morning,” “good day,” a habitual thing, also a social thing, we don’t have a true awareness of sin. No, I am a sinner because of this, this and this — concreteness, the concreteness of truth. Truth is always concrete. Lies are ethereal, they are like the air; you can’t catch it. Truth is concrete. And you can’t go to confess your sins in an abstract way: “Yes, I . . . yes, I once lost patience, another time . . . and abstract things. I am a sinner.” Concreteness: “I have done this; I have thought this; I have said this.” Concreteness is what makes me feel seriously that I am a sinner and not a ‘sinner in the air.”
Jesus says in the Gospel: “I thank Thee, Father, Lord of Heaven and earth, that Thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes” (Matthew 11:25) — the concreteness of little ones. It’s lovely to hear little ones when they come to Confession: they don’t say strange things, “in the air.” They say concrete things, and sometimes too concrete because they have that simplicity that God gives to little ones. I always remember a boy who came to tell me once that he was sad because he had quarreled with his Aunt . . . but then he went on . . . I said, “But what did you do?” –“Ah, I was at home; I wanted to go play football — a boy, ah? — my Mother wasn’t there, but my Aunt said: “No, you can’t go out, you must first do your tasks.” A word went, a word came and in the end, I sent her to that country.” He was a boy with much geographic knowledge . . . He even told me the name of the country to which he’d sent his Aunt! They are like this: simple, concrete.
We too must be simple, concrete: concreteness leads you to humility because humility is concrete. “We are all sinners” <this phrase> is something abstract. No: I am a sinner because of this, this and this,” and this leads me to be ashamed to look at Jesus: “Forgive me,” it’s the true attitude of a sinner. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). This abstract attitude is a way of saying that we are without sin. “Yes, we are sinners, yes, I once lost patience . . . “ But “everything in the air.” I’m not aware of the reality of my sins. “But you know, all of us, all of us do these things, I’m sorry, I’m sorry . . . it pains me, I don’t want to do it anymore, I don’t want to say it anymore, I don’t want to think about it anymore.” It’s important that we give names to our sins within us. We must be concrete, because if we “keep ourselves in the air,” we will end up in darkness. Let us become like little ones, who say what they feel, what they think: they have not learned yet to say things somewhat wrapped up so that they are understood but it’s not said. This is an art of grownups, which often doesn’t do us good.
Yesterday I received a letter from a boy of Caravaggio. His name is Andrea. And he was telling me things of his: the letters of youngsters, of children, are very beautiful, because of their concreteness. And he told me that he heard Mass on television and that he had to “rebuke me” for something: that I say “peace be with you,” “and you can’t say this because with the pandemic we can’t touch each other. He doesn’t see that you [here in church] bow your head and don’t touch one another. But he has the freedom to say things as they are.
We must also have the freedom to say to the Lord things as they are: “Lord, I am in sin, help me.” As Peter after the first miraculous catch: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8). We must have this wisdom of concreteness, because the devil wants us to live in warmth, tepid, in grey: neither good nor bad; neither white nor black but grey — a life that doesn’t please the Lord. The Lord doesn’t like the lukewarm. <We must be concrete>, not to be liars. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just, so much so as to forgive us” (91 John 1:9). He forgives us when we are concrete. The spiritual life is so simple, so simple, but we make it complicated with these nuances, and in the end, we never get there . . .
Let us ask the Lord for the grace of simplicity and that He give us this grace, which He gives to the simple, to children, to youngsters who say what they feel, who don’t hide what they feel. Even if it’s something mistaken, they say it. Say things also to Him <but> with transparency, and not live a life that is neither one thing nor another. Let us ask for the grace of the freedom to say these things and also the grace to know well who we are before God.
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 Blessed Sacrament of the altar. I love You above all things and I desire You in my soul. As I cannot now receive You sacramentally, 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.
(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