(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Thursday addressed the parish priests of the Diocese of Rome, reflecting with them on the ‘progress of faith’ in the life of a priest.
He spoke to them about the progress of faith in the life of a priest in three main points: memory, hope, and discernment of the moment.
In remarks prepared for the event, the Holy Father said, “Memory, as the Catechism says, is rooted in the faith of the Church, in the faith of our fathers; hope is that which sustains our faith; and discernment of the moment I hold present at the moment of acting, of putting into practice that ‘faith which operates through charity’.”
Growth in faith
He said that “growing in faith” implies a “path of formation and of maturation in the faith”.
Turning to Evangelii Gaudium as a guide, he said, “Taking this seriously means that ‘it would not be right to see this call to growth exclusively or primarily in terms of doctrinal formation.’ (EG, n.161) Growth in faith happens through encounters with the Lord during the course of our lives. These encounters act as a treasure of memory and are our living faith, in a story of personal salvation.”
To illustrate, he gave the example of a basketball player who pivots on a stable foot while remaining flexible with the rest of his body to protect the ball from his opponent. “For us that foot pinned to the ground, around which we pivot, is the cross of Christ.”
Memory is remembering the promise of the Lord
Pope Francis said a faith nourished on memory of past graces “confers on our faith the solidity of the Incarnation”.
“Faith feeds on and is nourished by memory: The memory of the Covenant which the Lord has made with us. He is the God of our fathers and grandfathers. He is not a God of the last moment, a God without a family history, a God which – to respond to each new paradigm – should throw out precedents as if they were old and ridiculous.”
He said faith can even progress “backwards” in a “revolutionary return to the roots”.
“The more lucid the memory of the past, the more clear the future opens up, because it is possible to see the truly new path and distinguish it from the path already taken, which has never brought one anywhere meaningful.”
Hope is the guiding star which indicates the horizon
The Holy Father went on to speak of hope, which “opens faith to the surprises of God.”
“Faith is sustained and progresses thanks to hope. Hope is the anchor anchored in the Heavens, in the transcendent future, of which the temporal future –considered in a linear form – is only an expression. Hope is that which gives dynamism to the rearwards-looking glance of faith, which conduces one to find new things in the past – in the treasures of the memory – so that one can encounter the same God, which hopes to see into the future.”
Discernment at every fork in the road to find next step in love
The Pope then examined discernment, which “is what makes faith concrete…, what permits us to give credible witness”.
He said, “The discernment of the opportune time (Kairos) is fundamentally rich in memory and in hope: remembering with love, I aim my gaze with clarity to that which best guides to the Promise.”
He also spoke of two moments in the act of discernment: first, a step back “to better see the panorama”; second, a step forward “when, in the present moment, we discern how to concretize love in the possible good, that is, for the good of the other”.
(from Vatican Radio)…
(Vatican Radio) The compass of the Christian directs him to follow Christ crucified, not a disincarnate god, but God made flesh, Who bears in Himself the wounds of our brothers. That was the message of Pope Francis at the morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta on Thursday.
The invitation to be converted resounds strongly at the beginning of Lent. And the liturgy of the day, Pope Francis said, places this exhortation in the context of three realities: man, God, and the journey. The reality of man is that of choosing between good and evil: God has made us free, the choice is ours,” the Pope said, but He does not leave it to us alone; rather, he points out the path of goodness with the Commandments. Then there is the reality of God: “for the disciples, it was difficult to understand” the path of the Cross of Jesus. “Because God has taken all of human reality, except sin. There is no God without Christ. A God without Christ, ‘disincarnate,’ is a god that is not real”:
“The reality of God is God made Christ, for us. To save us. And when we distance ourselves from this, from this reality, and we distance ourselves from the Cross of Christ, from the truth of the wounds of the Lord, we distance ourselves also from love, from the charity [carità] of God, from salvation and going along an ideological street from God, far away: [This] is not God who came to us and made Himself close to us to save us, and died for us. This [God made Christ for us, to save us] is the reality of God.”
The Pope cited the dialogue between an agnostic and a believer, recorded by a French writer of the last century:
“The agnostic of good will asked the believer, ‘But how can I… for me, the problem is how Christ is God: I can’t understand this. How is Christ God?’ And the believer responded, ‘Eh, for me this is not a problem. The problem would be if God would not have been made Christ.’ This is the reality of God: God made Christ, God made flesh; and this is the foundation of the works of mercy. The wounds of our brothers are the wounds of Christ, they are the wounds of God, because God is made Christ. The second reality. We cannot live Lent without this reality. We must convert, not to an abstract God, but to the concrete God who is made Christ.”
Finally, there is the third reality, that of the journey. Jesus says, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”:
“The reality of the journey is that of Christ: following Christ, doing the will of the Father, as He did, taking up the daily crosses and denying oneself in order to follow Christ. Not doing what I want, but what Jesus wants; following Jesus. And He says that on this street we lose our life, in order to gain it back later; it is a continual loss of life, loss of doing what I want, loss of comforts, being always on the path of Jesus who was at the service of others, [who was] was in adoration of God. That is the right path.”
“The only sure path,” Pope Francis concluded, “is following Christ crucified, the scandal of the Cross. And these three realities – man, God, and the journey – “are the compass of the Christian, which will not allow us to take the wrong path.
(from Vatican Radio)…
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis celebrated Holy Mass for Ash Wednesday at the Basilica of Santa Sabina on the Aventine hill in Rome.
In his homily, the Holy Father said Lent is a path that “leads to the triumph of mercy over all that would crush us or reduce us to something unworthy of our dignity as God’s children.”
Click here to see a report on the Pope’s Mass.
Please find below the official English translation of the Pope’s homily:
“Return to me with all your heart… return to the Lord” (Jl 2:12, 13). The prophet Joel makes this plea to the people in the Lord’s name. No one should feel excluded: “Assemble the aged, gather the children, even infants at the breast, the bridegroom… and the bride” (v. 16). All the faithful people are summoned to come and worship their God, “for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (v. 13).
We too want to take up this appeal; we want to return to the merciful heart of the Father. In this season of grace that begins today, we once again turn our eyes to his mercy. Lent is a path: it leads to the triumph of mercy over all that would crush us or reduce us to something unworthy of our dignity as God’s children. Lent is the road leading from slavery to freedom, from suffering to joy, from death to life. The mark of the ashes with which we set out reminds us of our origin: we were taken from the earth, we are made of dust. True, yet we are dust in the loving hands of God, who has breathed his spirit of life upon each one of us, and still wants to do so. He wants to keep giving us that breath of life that saves us from every other type of breath: the stifling asphyxia brought on by our selfishness, the stifling asphyxia generated by petty ambition and silent indifference – an asphyxia that smothers the spirit, narrows our horizons and slows the beating of our hearts. The breath of God’s life saves us from this asphyxia that dampens our faith, cools our charity and strangles every hope. To experience Lent is to yearn for this breath of life that our Father unceasingly offers us amid the mire of our history.
The breath of God’s life sets us free from the asphyxia that so often we fail to notice, or become so used to that it seems normal, even when its effects are felt. We think it is normal because we have grown so accustomed to breathing air in which hope has dissipated, the air of glumness and resignation, the stifling air of panic and hostility.
Lent is the time for saying no. No to the spiritual asphyxia born of the pollution caused by indifference, by thinking that other people’s lives are not my concern, and by every attempt to trivialize life, especially the lives of those whose flesh is burdened by so much superficiality. Lent means saying no to the toxic pollution of empty and meaningless words, of harsh and hasty criticism, of simplistic analyses that fail to grasp the complexity of problems, especially the problems of those who suffer the most. Lent is the time to say no to the asphyxia of a prayer that soothes our conscience, of an almsgiving that leaves us self-satisfied, of a fasting that makes us feel good. Lent is the time to say no to the asphyxia born of relationships that exclude, that try to find God while avoiding the wounds of Christ present in the wounds of his brothers and sisters: in a word, all those forms of spirituality that reduce the faith to a ghetto culture, a culture of exclusion.
Lent is a time for remembering. It is the time to reflect and ask ourselves what we would be if God had closed his doors to us. What would we be without his mercy that never tires of forgiving us and always gives us the chance to begin anew? Lent is the time to ask ourselves where we would be without the help of so many people who in a thousand quiet ways have stretched out their hands and in very concrete ways given us hope and enabled us to make a new beginning.
Lent is the time to start breathing again. It is the time to open our hearts to the breath of the One capable of turning our dust into humanity. It is not the time to rend our garments before the evil all around us, but instead to make room in our life for all the good we are able to do. It is a time to set aside everything that isolates us, encloses us and paralyzes us. Lent is a time of compassion, when, with the Psalmist, we can say: “Restore to us the joy of your salvation, sustain in us a willing spirit”, so that by our lives we may declare your praise (cf. Ps 51:12.15), and our dust – by the power of your breath of life – may become a “dust of love”.
(from Vatican Radio)…
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has joined his voice to those taking part in Brazil’s “Fraternity Campaign,” an annual Lenten Campaign organized by the Brazilian National Conference of Bishops.
This year’s campaign focusses on the theme “Brazilian biomes and the defense of life” with the motto from Genesis: “Cultivate and keep creation.”
Brazil has one of the most significant bio diversities in the world, and its territory is divided into 6 natural biomes, each with its own set of fauna, flora and soil, with specific social and cultural manifestations of its population. The 2017 Fraternity Campaign is dedicated to the appreciation and protection of these biomes.
In his message addressed to his “dear brothers and sisters in Brazil”, Pope Francis speaks of the generosity of the Creator towards Brazil in giving it “a diversity of ecosystems of extraordinary beauty.”
Unfortunately, the Pope said, the Brazilian land also carries “the signs of aggression towards creation and the deterioration of nature”.
He said the Church in Brazil not only provides a prophetic voice for the care and respect of the environment and attention towards the poor, but highlights the need to tackle the ecological challenges and problems as well as pinpointing their causes and possible solutions.
Pope Francis recalled that amongst the many initiatives promoted by the Church, as far back as 1979, the Lenten Fraternity Campaign shone the spotlight on environmental issues.
He also noted that we cannot not consider the effects environmental degradation, the current model for development and the culture of waste are having on the lives of people.
“This Campaign invites us to contemplate, admire, give thanks and respect the diversity of nature manifested in Brazil’s different ecosystems which are a true gift of God” he said.
Pointing out that environmental degradation is one of the greatest challenges we face because it is always accompanied by social injustice, the Pope pointed to indigenous peoples as an example of “how cohabitation with creation can be respectful, fruitful and merciful”.
It is necessary, he said, to learn from these peoples how to relate to nature in the quest for a sustainable model “that can be a valid alternative to the race for profit that exhausts natural resources and damages the dignity of peoples”.
“Every year, the Pope concluded, the Fraternity Campaign takes place during Lent: it is an invitation to live the spirituality of Easter with deepened awareness”.
(from Vatican Radio)…
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis marked Ash Wednesday inviting the faithful to renew their hope in Christ’s promises and their commitment to follow Him ever more closely.
He was addressing the crowds gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the weekly General Audience .
Pointing out that on Ash Wednesday we enter the liturgical time of Lent, Pope Francis said this time of penitence and mortification is actually a journey of hope as it is directs us on the path towards Resurrection, and help us renew our Baptismal identity.
To better understand what this means, he said, we must refer to the fundamental experience of the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, in which the Chosen People journeyed towards the Promised Land and, through spiritual discipline and the gift of the Law, learned the love of God and neighbor.
The Scriptures, the Pope said, tell of a tormented journey that symbolically lasted forty years, the time span of a generation, and that difficulties and obstacles represented continuous temptations to regret Egypt and to turn back. But, he said, the Lord stayed close to the people who finally arrived in the Promised Land guided by Moses.
Their journey, he explained, was undertaken ‘in hope’, and in this sense “it is an ‘exodus’ out of slavery and into freedom.
“Every step, every effort, every test, every fall and every recovery has a sense within God’s design for salvation, as He wants life – not death – and joy – not pain – for His people” he said.
The Pope said Easter is Jesus’ own exodus, his passover from death to life, in which we participate through our rebirth in Baptism.
He said that by following Christ along the way of the Cross, we share in his victory over sin and death; he explained that in order to open this passage for us, Jesus had to cast off his glory, he had to humble himself, he had to be obedient until death on the cross.
“This doesn’t mean that he did everything and we don’t have to do anything” he said.
The Pope went on to highlight that it doesn’t mean “he went through the cross and we will go to heaven in a carriage.” That is not how it works.
He explained that our salvation is Jesus’ gift, but it is part of a love story and requires our ‘yes’ and our participation.
With a heart open to this horizon, the Pope concluded, let us enter into Lent feeling that we belong to the holy people of God: “may we begin our journey of hope with joy.”
(from Vatican Radio)…