This morning’s General Audience was held at 9:20 in St. Peter’s Square, where the Holy Father met with groups of pilgrims and faithful from Italy and from all over the world.
Taking up the series of catecheses on the Acts of the Apostles, in his address in Italian the Pope focused his meditation on the theme: “You might even be found opposing God! (Acts 5:39). The criteria of discernment proposed by the sage Gamaliel.” (Biblical passage: from the Acts of the Apostles 5:34-35.38-39).
After summarizing his catechesis in several languages, the Holy Father expressed special greetings to groups of faithful present. Then he appealed for prayer for World Alzheimer’s Day, which will be observed on September 21.
The General Audience ended with the singing of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic Blessing.
* * *
The Holy Father’s Catechesis
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
We continue the catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles. In face of the Jews prohibition to teach in the Name of Christ, Peter and the Apostles respond with courage that they can’t obey those that want to halt the Gospel’s travel in the world. The Twelve thus show that they have that “obedience of the faith” which they then want to arouse in all men (Cf. Romans 1:5). In fact, since Pentecost they are no longer men “alone.” They experience that special synergy, which makes them de-centred from themselves and makes they say: “we and the Holy Spirit” (Acts 5:32) or “the Holy Spirit and us” (Acts 15:28). They feel they can’t say “I” only, they are men de-centred from themselves. Strong in this alliance, the Apostles don’t let themselves be intimidated by anyone. They had an impressive courage! Let us think that these were cowards: they all escaped, they fled when Jesus was arrested. However, from cowards they became so courageous. Why? <They became courageous> because the Holy Spirit was with them. The same happens to us: if we have the Holy Spirit within, we will have the courage to go forward, the courage to win so many fights, not by ourselves but by the Holy Spirit who is with us. They don’t retreat in their march as intrepid witnesses of the Risen Jesus, as the martyrs of all times, including our own. The martyrs give their life, they don’t hide that they are Christians. Let us think, a few years ago — today also there are so many — but let us think of four years ago, those those Christian Orthodox Copts, true workers, on the beach of Libya: they all had their throats cut, but the last word they said was “Jesus, Jesus.” They didn’t sell out the faith, because the Holy Spirit was with them. These are today’s martyrs!
The Apostles are the “megaphones” of the Holy Spirit, sent by the Risen One to spread promptly and without hesitation the Word that gives salvation.
And this determination makes the Jewish “religious system” truly tremble, which feels threatened and responds with violence and death sentences. The persecution of Christians is always the same: people who don’t want Christianity feel threatened and so bring death to Christians. However, in the midst of the Sanhedrin, the different voice of a Pharisee is raised, who chooses to stem the reaction of his own: his name was Gamaliel, a prudent man, “Doctor of the Law, esteemed by all the people” In his school, Saint Paul learned to observe “the Law of the Fathers” (Cf. Acts 22:3). Gamaliel takes the floor and shows his brothers how to exercise the art of discernment in face of situations that surpass the usual schemes.
He shows, mentioning some personalities who peddled themselves as Messiah, that every human project can at first gain approval and then fail, whereas all that comes from on High and brings God’s “signature” is destined to last. Human projects always fail; they have a time, as we do. Think of the many political projects, and how they change from one side to the other, in all countries. Think of the great empires, think of the dictatorships of the last century: they felt very powerful, they thought of dominating the world. And then they all collapsed. Think, also, of today’s empires: they will collapse, if God isn’t with them, because the strength that men have in themselves isn’t lasting. Only God’s strength lasts. We think of the history of Christians, also the history of the Church, with so many sins, with so many scandals, with so many awful things in these two thousand years. And why hasn’t it collapsed? -<It hasn’t collapsed> because God is there. We are sinners and many times we also give scandal, but God is with us. And God saves us first, and then them, but the Lord always saves. The strength is “God with us.” Mentioning some personalities that peddled themselves as Messiah, Gamaliel shows that every human project can first gain approval and then fail. Therefore, Gamaliel concludes that, if the disciples of Jesus of Nazareth have believed an impostor, they are destined to disappear into thin air. If, instead, they follow one who came from God, it’s better to give up combating them and, he admonishes: “You might even be found opposing God!” (Acts 5:39). He teaches us to undertake this discernment. They are placating and farsighted words, which enables them to see the Christian event in a new light and offer criteria that “knows of the Gospel,” because they invite to recognize the tree by its fruits (Cf. Matthew 7:16). They touch the hearts and obtain the hoped-for effect: the other members of the Sanhedrin follow his opinion and give up death intentions, namely, to kill the Apostles.
Let us ask the Holy Spirit to act in us so that, be it personally or communally, we can acquire the habit of discernment. Let us ask Him to make us see always the unity of the history of salvation through the signs of God’s passage in this, our time, and on the faces of those next to us, so that we learn that time and human faces are messengers of the living God.[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
The Holy Father’s Appeal
Observed next September 21 is World Alzheimer’s Day, a sickness that strikes so many men and women who, because of this illness, are often victims of violence, mistreatment and abuses that trample their dignity. Let us pray for the conversion of hearts and for all those affected by Alzheimer’s, for their families and for those who take loving care of them. I also associate to the prayer, the memory of all those affected by cancer pathologies, so that they are all increasingly supported, be it in the prevention or in the cure of this sickness.[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
A warm welcome goes to the Italian-speaking pilgrims.
I’m happy to receive the women and men Religious and the participants in the updating course of Canon Law of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross.
I greet the team of the Nazionale Sacerdoti Italia Calcio; the parishes, in particular those of the Saints Prosdocimus and Donatus in Cittadella and of Santa Lucia in Palermo; The Comboni Association of Emigrants and Refugees Services; the Italian Federation of Canine Sport; and the members of the Campaign of Education for Street Safety.
A particular thought goes to young people, the elderly, the sick and newlyweds. Next Saturday is the feast of Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist. Imitate his readiness to follow Jesus promptly. He was attached to money and sold his own homeland for money! The Lord called him and he left all the money to follow Jesus. May his conversion be an example for all, so that, like him, we can live as true disciples of the Lord, able to abandon the world’s calculations.[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]