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?Mass at Santa Marta – Obedience through dialogue

?Mass at Santa Marta – Obedience through dialogue

At Santa Marta on Thursday morning, Francis offered Mass for Benedict XVI on his 88th birthday, inviting the faithful
present to join him in praying “that the Lord sustain him and grant him much
joy and happiness”.

In his homily, the
Pontiff spoke of obedience, a prominent theme in the day’s liturgy. He began by
quoting words from the end of the passage from the Gospel according to John
(3:31-35): “he who does not obey the Son shall not see life”. Then, referring
to the First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles (5:27-33), the Pontiff also
recalled what “the Apostles said to the high priests: we must obey God rather
than men”.

Obedience, Francis
explained, “often leads us down a path which isn’t the one we think it should
be: there is another, the obedience of Jesus who says to the Father in the
Garden of Olives: “Thy will be done”. In so doing Jesus “obeys and saves us
all”. Thus, we must be ready to “obey, to have the courage to change directions
when the Lord asks this of us”. And “for this reason, he who obeys will have
eternal life”, whereas for “he who does not obey, the wrath of God rests upon

“Within this
framework”, the Pontiff said, “we can reflect upon the First Reading” — more
specifically on the “dialogue between the Apostles and the high priests”. The
“story began a bit earlier” in the same chapter of the Acts of the Apostles.
Thus, he summarized, “the Apostles preached to the people and would stand at
Solomon’s Portico. The whole populace would go there to hear them: they worked
miracles and the number of believers was growing”. But “a small group wouldn’t
dare join them, out fear, they were distant”. Yet, the Pope said, “even from
nearby places, from nearby villages, they brought the sick to the squares, on
pallets, so that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of
them and would heal them. And they were healed”.

However, the narrative
of the Acts continues, “the priests and the people’s leaders became angry”:
indeed, they were “filled with jealousy because the people were following the
Apostles, exalting them, praising them”. And therefore they gave the order to
“throw them in prison”. But, Francis continued, “at night an angel of God freed
them, and this was not the first time”.

That’s why, when “the
priests met in the morning to judge them, the prison was closed, securely
locked, and they weren’t there”. Then they learned that the Apostles had gone
back again to Solomon’s Portico, to preach to the people. And so once again the
priests had them brought in.

The passage from the
Acts offered in the day’s liturgy, the Pontiff stated, recounts just what
happened at that moment: the captain and the officers “brought the Apostles and
presented them to the Sanhedrin”. And again, the Scripture reads that “the high
priest questioned them, saying, ‘We strictly charged you not to teach in this
name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you intend to
bring this man’s blood upon us’”.

In response to these
accusations, Peter replied: “We must obey God rather than men”. And thus
“salvation history repeats up to Jesus”. But “in hearing Peter’s kerygma,
Peter’s preaching on the people redemption which God performed through Jesus”,
the members of the Sanhedrin “were enraged and wanted to kill them”. They were,
in fact, “incapable of recognizing the salvation of God” despite being
“doctors” who had “studied the history of the people, studied the prophecies,
studied the law, thus they knew all the theology of the people of Israel, the
revelation of God, they knew everything: they were doctors”.

The question is “why
was there there this hardness of heart?”. Yes, the Pope said, it wasn’t a
matter of “hardheadedness, it wasn’t simple stubbornness”. The hardness was in
their hearts. And therefore “one could ask: what is the route to this total
stubbornness of head and heart? How does one reach this closure, which even the
Apostles had before the Holy Spirit came”. Indeed, Jesus said to the two
disciples at Emmaus: “O foolish men, and slow to believe the things of God”.

At its root, Francis
explained, “the story of this stubbornness, the route, is in closing oneself
off, not engaging in dialogue, it is the lack of dialogue”. Those were people
who “didn’t know how to dialogue, they didn’t know how to dialogue with God
because they didn’t know how to pray and to hear the Lord’s voice; and they
didn’t know how to dialogue with others”.

This closure to
dialogue led them to interpret “the law in order to make it more precise, but
they were closed to the signs of God in history, they were closed to the
people: they were closed, closed”. And “the lack of dialogue, this closure of
heart, led them not to obey God”.

After all, “this is the
tragedy of these doctors of Israel, these theologians of the People of God:
they didn’t know how to listen, they didn’t know how to dialogue”. This is
because, the Pope explained, “dialogue is done with God and with our brothers”.
And “this rage and desire to silence all those who preach, in this case the
newness of God, that is, Jesus is Risen” is clearly “the sign that one doesn’t
know how to dialogue, that a person isn’t open to the voice of the Lord, to the
signs that the Lord makes among his people”. Therefore, although they had no
reason to, they became infuriated and wanted to put the disciples to death. “It
is a painful route”, Francis remarked, also because “these are the same men who
paid the guards at the tomb to say that the disciples had stolen Jesus’ body:
they do everything possible not to open themselves to God’s voice”.

Before continuing with
the celebration of the Eucharist —
“which is the life of God, who speaks to us from on high, as Jesus says to
Nicodemus” — Francis prayed “for the masters, for the doctors, for those who
teach the People of God, that they never be closed, that they dialogue, and
thus save themselves from the wrath of God which, should they not change their
attitude, will rest upon them”.

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