On Saturday, September 26, 2020, at the Altar of the Chair of the Vatican Basilica, the Holy Father Francis presided over the Eucharistic Celebration for the Vatican Gendarmerie Corps, on the occasion of the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel, patron, and protector of the Italian State Police and the Corps of the Gendarmerie Vatican.
We report below the text of the homily that the Pope gave off the cuff during the Mass:
Homily of the Holy Father
This Sunday’s Readings speak to us of conversion. The conversion of the heart; conversion which means “changing life”, that is, that the heart that does not go along a good path will find a good path.
But it is not only our conversion: it is also God’s conversion. “If the wicked one turns from his wickedness – we heard in the first reading – and does what is right and just, he makes himself live. He reflected, he distanced himself from all the sins committed: he will certainly live “( Ez 18: 27-28). The wicked are converted. Let’s say it more easily: the sinner is converted and God is also converted to the sinner for himself. The encounter with God, conversion, is on both sides; both try to meet. Forgiveness is not just going there, knocking on the door and saying: “Forgive me”, and from the intercom, they answer you: “I forgive you. Get out”. Forgiveness is always an embrace of God. But God walks, as we walk, to meet us.
This is God’s forgiveness, the way to convert. “But how am I going to go to God? I am such a sinner! ”. It is what God wants: that you go, that you go to Him. What did the father of the prodigal son do? – the one who left with the money and spent his fortune on vice – What did daddy do? When he saw the son coming – because the son had felt he had to go back to his father; he had to return out of necessity, but in any case, the son took the step – the father, who was on the terrace, immediately got out and went to meet his son. She didn’t wait for him at the door with her finger-pointing, she hugged him! And when the son spoke asking for forgiveness, the hug covered his mouth. This is conversion. This is the love of God. It is a path of mutual encounter.
And on this I would like to emphasize: a heart that is always open to the encounter with God – this is conversion, to be open to the encounter with God – what is the model? The model is that of the Gospel, of the rich, of the poor, the model is Jesus Christ. He came out to meet us. We heard the second reading: “Have in yourselves the same sentiments as Christ Jesus: he, despite being in the condition of God – Jesus was God -, did not consider it a privilege to be like God – that is, to remain there -, but emptied himself assuming the condition of a servant, becoming like men. […] He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death and death on the cross ”( Phil 2,5-8).
The path of conversion is to approach, it is closeness, but a closeness that is service. And this word causes me to address you, dear Gendarmes brothers. Whenever you approach to serve, imitate Jesus Christ. Every time you take a step to bring order, you think you are doing a service, you are doing a conversion that is service. And the way you do it, you will be doing good to others. And for that, I want to thank you. Your service is a double-conversion: your conversion – like that of Jesus Christ -, leaving your comforts, leaving … “I am going to serve”; and the other conversion, that of the other, who does not feel punished in the first moment but listened to, put right, with the humility of Jesus. Thus Jesus asks you to be like Him: strong, disciplined, but humble and servants.
I once heard an elderly man who, speaking of his son scolding his children, said: “My son has not understood that every time he scolds his children, he loses authority.” Your authority is in service: to put limits, to make things happen, but in service, in charity, in kindness. And this is a great vocation of yours. For me, it would be a great sadness if someone told me: “No, your Gendarmerie Corps …, they are employees, employees, who do their schedule and then do not care …”. No, no. This is not the way to convert and convert others. Your path is that of service, like a father who goes to visit his son, like a brother who sees something and says: “No, this cannot be done, this is not good”. This is the way but said with the heart, said with humility, said with closeness.
The Bible says, in the Gospel, that Jesus was always with sinners, with evildoers as well, but they felt close to Jesus, they did not feel judged. But Jesus never told a lie, a lie. No: “This is the truth, this is the way”. But he said it with kindness, he said it with his heart, he said it as a brother.
Thanks for your service. Thank you, because I see your service going down this path. Sometimes someone can slip a little, but in life who doesn’t slip? All! But we get up: “I didn’t do well, but now…”. Always resume this journey for the conversion of people and also for their own conversion. In service he is never wrong because service is love, it is charity, it is closeness. Service is the path that God has chosen in Jesus Christ to forgive us, to convert us.
Thank you for your service, and go forward, always with this humble but strong closeness that Jesus Christ taught us. Thank you.
[01117-EN.01] [Original text: Italian]
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