This morning’s General Audience was held at 8:55 in St. Peter’s Square, where the Holy Father Francis met with pilgrims and faithful from Italy and from all over the world.
Beginning a new series of catecheses on the Acts of the Apostles, in his address in Italian the Pope focused his meditation on the theme: “To them, He presented Himself alive . . . and He charged them . . . to wait for the promise of the Father” (Biblical passage: From the Acts of the Apostles 1:3-4).
After summarizing his catechesis in several languages, the Holy Father expressed special greetings to groups of faithful present.
The General Audience ended with the singing of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic Blessing.
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The Holy Father’s Catechesis
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
Today we begin a journey of catecheses through the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. This biblical book, written by the evangelist Saint Luke, speaks to us of a journey — of a journey: but of what journey? Of the journey of the Gospel in the world and shows us the wonderful union between the Word of God and the Holy Spirit, which inaugurates the time of evangelization. The protagonists of the Acts are in fact a vivacious and effective “couple”: the Word and the Spirit.
God “sends His message on earth” and “His word runs swiftly” — says the Psalm (147:4). The Word of God runs, it is dynamic, it waters every terrain on which it falls. And what is its force? Saint Luke tells us that the human word becomes effective — not thanks to rhetoric, which is the art of good speaking –, but thanks to the Holy Spirit, who is the dynamis of God, the dynamic of God, His force, which has the power to purify the word, to make it bearer of life. For example, in the Bible there are stories, human words, but what is the difference between the Bible and a history book? The difference is that the words of the Bible are taken from the Holy Spirit who gives a very great force, a different force, and who helps us so that that word is seed of sanctity, seed of life, effective. When the Spirit visits the human word it becomes dynamic, like “dynamite,” namely, able to light hearts and break schemes, resistances, and walls of division, opening new ways and expanding the boundaries of the people of God. And we’ll see this, in the course of these catecheses, in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. He who gives vibrant and incisive sonority to our very fragile human word, capable even of lying and escaping from one’s responsibilities, is solely the Holy Spirit, through whom the Son of God was generated; the Spirit that anointed and sustained Him in the mission; the Spirit thanks to whom He chose His Apostles and guaranteed to them proclamation, perseverance, and fruitfulness, as He also guarantees it today to our proclamation.
The Gospel ends with Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension, and the narrative plot of the Acts of the Apostles begins precisely from here, from the superabundance of life of the Risen One, transfused in His Church. Saint Luke says to us that Jesus “presented Himself alive after His Passion by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days, and speaking of the Kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). The Risen One, the Risen Jesus carries out very human gestures, such as sharing a meal with His own, and He invites them to live confidently the awaiting of the fulfillment of the Father’s promise: “you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5).
Baptism in the Holy Spirit is, in fact, the experience that enables us to enter into a personal communion with God and to participate in His universal salvific Will, acquiring the gift of the parrhesia, the courage, namely, the capacity to pronounce a word “as children of God,” not only as men, but as children of God: a limpid, free, effective word full of love for Christ and for brothers. Therefore, there is no struggle to earn or merit God’s gift. All is given gratuitously and in its time. The Lord gives all gratuitously. Salvation isn’t purchased, it’s not paid for: it’s a free gift. In face of the anxiety to know beforehand the time in which the events He announced will occur, Jesus answers His own: “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:7-8_).
The Risen One invites His own not to live the present without anxiety, but to make an alliance with time, and to be able to wait for the unfolding of a sacred story that has not been interrupted but that advances, that always goes forward; and to be able to wait for the “steps” of God, Lord of time and space. The Risen One invites His own not to “manufacture” the mission on their own, but to wait for the Father to dynamize their hearts with His Spirit, to be able to involve themselves in a missionary witness capable of radiating from Jerusalem to Samaria and to cross over the boundaries of Israel to reach the peripheries of the world.
The Apostles live this waiting together; they live it as the Lord’s family, in the Upper Room or Cenacle, whose walls are again witnesses of the gift with which Jesus gave Himself to his own in the Eucharist. And how to wait for the force, the dynamis of God? By praying with perseverance, as if there aren’t many but only one. Praying in unity and with perseverance. In fact, it’s with prayer that one overcomes loneliness, temptation, and suspicion and opens the heart to communion. The presence of the women and of Mary, Jesus’ Mother, intensifies this experience: they learned first of all from the Master to witness the fidelity of love and to the force of communion that overcomes every fear.
Let us also ask the Lord for the patience to wait for His steps, not to want to “manufacture” <what is> His work and to remain docile by praying, invoking the Spirit and cultivating the art of ecclesial communion.[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
© Libreria Editrice Vatican
A warm welcome goes to the Italian-speaking pilgrims.
I’m happy to receive the Chapter Members of the Congregation of the Holy Family; the participants in the General Assembly of the Pontifical Missionary Works and the Directors of the “Salesian Bulletin.”
I greet the “Adultissimi” group of Italian Catholic Action; the seminarians of the Preparatory <School> of Molfetta; the parish communities, in particular those of Forino, of Oppido Lucano and of Chianche; the participants in the “Clericus Cup”; the school Institutes, especially that of Crema; the members of the Council of the Military Judiciary; as well as those of the Police Headquarters and of the Traffic Police of Fermo.
A particular thought goes to young people, the elderly, the sick and newlyweds.
Tomorrow we will celebrate the Ascension of the Lord Jesus to Heaven. As He did to the Apostles, the Lord also repeats to us today: “I will not leave you orphans; I will be with you always until the end <of time>“ (Cf. John 14:17-18). If you are friends of Jesus, He will make you feel His presence in your life, and you will never feel alone or abandoned.[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
© Libreria Editrice Vatican