Francis neared the end of his first full day as Pontiff by celebrating Mass with the men who elected him the Successor of St. Peter, in the chapel where that election took place.
In a brief homily delivered in Italian, and without a written text, Francis spoke about the readings from Mass, saying the idea of “movement” is what the three readings have in common.
The first reading, from the Prophet Isaiah, included the verses, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.”
The second reading was from the First Letter of Peter dedicated to the common priesthood of the faithful: “like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood.”
The Gospel reading told the story of Peter’s confession when Christ asked His disciples: “And you, who do you say I am?”
Francis reflected: “There is something that I see that these three readings have in common: movement. In the first reading it is the movement of a journey; in the second reading it is the movement in building the Church; in the third, the Gospel, it is the movement of confession. Journeying, building, confessing.”
He went on to speak of journeying in the presence of the Lord, as God asked Abraham. Then, building and building up the Church. “Building is another form of movement in our life,” he said.
“Third, confessing,” the Pope continued. “We can journey as much as we want, we can build many things, but if we do not confess Jesus Christ, the thing does not work. We will become a welfare NGO but not the Church, the Bride of Christ.”
“When we do not confess Jesus Christ,” he said, “I am reminded of the words of Léon Bloy: ‘Whoever does not pray to the Lord, prays to the devil.’ When we do not confess Jesus Christ, we confess the worldliness of the devil, the worldliness of the demon.”
Not that easy
Francis went on to acknowledge that journeying with God, building the Church and confessing Christ are not easy.
In this light, he pointed out, the Gospel speaks of Peter’s rejection of the cross.
“The same Peter,” Francis noted, “who had confessed Jesus Christ said to him: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. I will follow you, but let’s not talk about the cross. This is not a part of it. I will follow you in other directions, but not to the cross.”
Francis warned, “When we journey without the cross, when we build without the cross and when we confess a Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord: we are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.”
The new Bishop of Rome then called his listeners to courage, saying they had lived “days of grace.”
He urged them to “have courage, precisely the courage, to walk in the Lord’s presence, with the cross of the Lord; to build the Church upon the blood of the Lord, which was poured out on the cross; and to confess the only glory there is: Christ crucified. And in this way the Church will go forward.”
“It is my wish for all of us that the Holy Spirit – through the prayer of Our Lady, our Mother – bestow upon us the grace of journeying, building, confessing Jesus Christ crucified,” the Pope concluded.
Praying for Benedict
After the homily, the Prayers of the Faithful prayed for the new Pontiff and also for His Holiness Benedict XVI, “that he may serve the Church while hidden to the world, in a life dedicated to prayer and meditation.”
They also prayed that national leaders “not act with force or for personal interest, not in tyranny over persons, but conscious that every power comes from God.”
Finally, they recalled “those who are suffering and those who are lost in the struggles of life. That Christ, the supreme Shepherd, may restore and console them and crown them with glory.”
At the end of the Mass the Pontiff visited the papal apartment in the Apostolic Palace.
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On ZENIT’s Web page:
Full text of homily: www.zenit.org/en/articles/francis-1st-homily