Pope Francis said he knows the efforts and sacrifices made “by the Church in Cuba to bring Christ’s word and presence to all, even in the most remote areas.”
The Holy Father celebrated the Feast of St. Matthew at the Plaza de la Revolución “Calixto García Iñíguez”, located in the eastern city of Holguín.
The Pope departed this morning from Havana and arrived at Frank Pais International Airport. He then rode his popemobile, greeting thousands of people waving yellow and white flags of the Holy See.
In his homily, the Jesuit Pope recalled the conversion of St. Matthew, an event that is of special significance to the Holy Father.
The Holy Father’s motto, “Miserando Atque Eligendo”, (Because he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him) is taken from a homily by Saint Bede the Venerable regarding the calling of St. Matthew by Jesus.
Saint Bede’s homily, which is read on the feast of St. Matthew, is a homage to the divine mercy of Christ, and is of significance to the Holy Father in his spiritual itinerary.
At the age of 17, the young Jorge Mario Bergoglio experienced in a particular way, the loving presence of God in his life, after receiving the Sacrament of Confession. After he was appointed Bishops, he chose the motto in commemoration of this event.
In his homily, Pope Francis reflected on Jesus’ gaze towards Matthew when he first called him.
“How strong was the love in that look of Jesus, which moved Matthew to do what he did!” he exclaimed. “What power must have been in his eyes to make Matthew get up from his table!”
Despite being a tax collector, who were despised by the people as traitors, the Pope noted that Jesus looks at him with eyes of mercy. This gaze, the Pope said, is also given to us by Christ.
“Even if we do not dare raise our eyes to the Lord, he looks at us first,” he said. “This is our story, and it is like that of so many others. Each of us can say: “I, too, am a sinner, whom Jesus has looked upon”.
Christ, he continued, “came precisely to seek out all those who feel unworthy of God, unworthy of others. Let us allow Jesus to look at us. Let us allow his gaze to run over our streets. Let us allow that look to become our joy, our hope.”
The 78 year old Pontiff went on to say that Christ’s gaze can transform and overcome our preconceptions and reluctance to follow Him.
“[Jesus] challenges us daily with the question: “Do you believe? Do you believe it is possible that a tax collector can become a servant? Do you believe it is possible that a traitor can become a friend? Do you believe is possible that the son of a carpenter can be the Son of God?” His gaze transforms our way of seeing things, his heart transforms our hearts,” he said.
The Pope called on the faithful to contemplate the Lord through the Sacraments and others, especially those who feel excluded and abandoned. He also recognized the struggles of the Church in Cuba to spread the Gospel.
“I know the efforts and the sacrifices being made by the Church in Cuba to bring Christ’s word and presence to all, even in the most remote areas,” he said. “Here I would mention especially the “mission houses” which, given the shortage of churches and priests, provide for many people a place for prayer, for listening to the word of God, for catechesis and community life.”
Concluding his homily, Pope Francis invoked the intercession of Our Lady of Charity of El Cobre, the patroness of Cuba, to “watch over each of you, your homes, your families, and all those who feel that they have no place. In her love, may she protect us all as she once cared for Jesus.”