Pope Francis reflected today on the joy of the Christian life, specifically, the awareness that Christ came to save us.
He celebrated his habitual morning Mass in the Domus Sanctae Marthae with the eight cardinals who he has chosen to be his advisory council. The council is meeting these days at the Vatican.
Vatican Radio reported that the Holy Father’s homily was drawn from the First Reading, from Chapter 8 of Nehemiah, which describes the people’s rejoicing as Ezra read from the Book of the Law.
The People of God, he said, “had the memory of the Law, but it was a distant memory.” The recovery of the Law brought them “the experience of the closeness of salvation.”
“This is important not only in the great moments in history, but also in the moments of our life: we all have the memory of salvation, everyone. I wonder, though: is this memory close to us, or is it a memory a bit far away, spread a little thin, a bit archaic, a little like a museum [piece]… it can get far away [from us]… and when the memory is not close, when we do not experience the closeness of memory, it enters into a process of transformation, and the memory becomes a mere recollection.”
When memory is distant, Francis added, “it is transformed into recollection, but when it comes near, it turns into joy, and this is the joy of the people.” This, he continued, constitutes “a principle of our Christian life.” When memory is close, said Pope Francis, “it warms the heart and gives us joy.”:
“This joy is our strength. The joy of the nearness of memory. Domesticated memory, on the other hand, which moves away and becomes a mere recollection, does not warm the heart. It gives us neither joy nor strength. This encounter with memory is an event of salvation, it is an encounter with the love of God that has made history with us and saved us. It is a meeting of salvation – and it is so wonderful to be saved, that we need to make feast.”
The Church, said Pope Francis, has “[Christ’s] memory”: the “memory of the Passion of the Lord.” We too, he said, run the risk of “pushing this memory away, turning it into a mere recollection, in a rote exercise.”
“Every week we go to church, or perhaps when someone dies, we go to the funeral … and this memory often times bores us, because it is not near. It is sad, but the Mass is often turned into a social event and we are not close to the memory of the Church, which is the presence of the Lord before us. Imagine this beautiful scene in the Book of Nehemiah: Ezra who carries the Book of Israel’s memory and the people once again grow near to their memory and weep, the heart is warmed, is joyful, it feels that the joy of the Lord is its strength – and the people make a feast, without fear, simply.”
“Let us ask the Lord,” concluded Pope Francis, “for the grace to always have His memory close to us, a memory close and not domesticated by habit, by so many things, and pushed away into mere recollection.”