Here is a ZENIT translation of the address Pope Francis gave today before and after praying the midday Regina Caeli with those gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
Today’s Gospel (JN 10: 27-30) gives us some expressions spoken by Jesus during the feast of the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem, which was celebrated at the end of December. He is right in the temple area, and perhaps that enclosed sacred space suggests the image of the sheepfold and the shepherd. Jesus presents himself as “the Good Shepherd” and says, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand.”(vv. 27-28). These words help us to understand that no one can be said to be a follower of Jesus, if one does not listen to His voice. And this “listening” should not be understood in a superficial, but in a very involved, way, as to make possible a true mutual understanding, which can come from a generous following, expressed in the words “and they follow me” (v. 27). It is not only a listening ear, but a listening of the heart!
Therefore, the image of the shepherd and the sheep indicates the close relationship that Jesus wants to establish with each of us. He is our guide, our teacher, our friend, our model, but above all, He is our Savior. In fact, the next sentence of the Gospel says: “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand.” (v. 28). Who can speak like that? Only Jesus, because the “hand” of Jesus is one with the “hand” of the Father, and the Father is “greater than all” (v. 29).
These words convey a sense of absolute security and immense tenderness. Our life is completely safe in the hands of Jesus and the Father, Who are one, one love, one mercy, revealed once and for all in the sacrifice of the Cross. To save the lost sheep that is all of us, the Pastor became Lamb and let Himself be sacrificed to take upon Himself, and take away, the sin of the world. In this way, He has given us life, but life in abundance (cf. Jn 10:10)! This mystery is renewed, in an always surprising humility, the Eucharistic table. That’s where the sheep gather to feed themselves; that’s where they become one single [thing], among themselves and with the Good Shepherd.
That is why we no longer fear. Our lives are now saved from perdition. Nothing and no one can snatch us out of the hands of Jesus, because nothing and no one can win His love. The love of Jesus is invincible! The evil, the great enemy of God and of His creatures, tries in many ways to snatch eternal life. But the evil one cannot do anything if we do not open the doors of our soul and do not follow his deceitful flattery.
The Virgin Mary listened and followed obediently the Good Shepherd’s voice. May she help us to accept with joy the invitation of Jesus to become his disciples, and to always live in the certainty of being in the fatherly hands of God.[Original text: Italian] [Translation by Deborah Castellano Lubov]
After the Regina Coeli:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I thank all who have supported us in prayer the visit that I made yesterday to the Greek island of Lesbos. I brought the solidarity of the Church to refugees and the Greek people. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece were with me, signifying unity in the charity of all the Lord’s disciples. We visited one of the refugee camps: [with refugees] from Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, from Africa, from so many countries … We welcomed about 300 of these refugees, one by one. All three: Patriarch Bartholomew, Archbishop Ieronymos and me. So many of them were children; some of them – these children – have witnessed the death of their parents and of their companions, some having drowned in the sea. I saw so much pain! And I want to tell about a particular case, a young man, who wasn’t even 40 yet. I met him yesterday, with his two sons. He is a Muslim and he told me he was married to a Christian woman, and that they loved and respected each other. But, unfortunately, this girl had been slaughtered by terrorists, because she refused to deny Christ and abandon her faith. She’s a martyr! And the man was crying so much …
Last night, a violent earthquake struck Ecuador, causing many casualties and extensive damage. We pray for those populations; and also to those of Japan, where even there were some earthquakes in recent days. The help of God and neighbor gives them strength and support.
Today is World Day of Prayer for Vocations. We are invited to pray for vocations to the priesthood and consecrated life. And on this day, I ordained 11 new priests this morning. I renew my greeting to the new priests, to the families and friends; and I urge all priests and seminarians to take part in the Jubilee, in the first three days of June. And to you young people, boys and girls, that are in the piazza: Think about if you believe the Lord is calling you to consecrate your life to His service, be it in the priesthood, or in consecrated life.
I greet all of you with affection, pilgrims from Italy and from many parts of the world. There are families, church groups, schools and associations: I bless you all. I greet in particular the faithful of Madrid, Sao Paulo and Warsaw; as well as pilgrimages from the dioceses of Cerreto Sannita-Telese-Sant’Agata dei Goti and Siena-Colle di Val d’Elsa-Montalcino, accompanied by their bishops; the faithful of Specchia and Verona; the Chorale Laurentian Mortara and the group “Parents for Neonatal Intensive Care.”
I express my closeness to the many families worried about finding work. I think, in particular, of the precarious situation of the Italian workers of the Call Center: I hope that the dignity of the human person will prevail, and not special interests.
I wish you all a good Sunday. And please, do not forget to pray for me. Good lunch and goodbye![Original text: Italian] [Translation by Deborah Castellano Lubov]