THE SIX NEW BEATITUDES OF POPE FRANCIS – BE SALT AND LIGHT: EXPRESS FAITH IN PRAYER, SACRAMENTS AND SERVICE TO THE SUFFERING

THE SIX NEW BEATITUDES OF POPE FRANCIS

In his homily this morning at Mass for the small Catholic population of Sweden, Pope Francis focussed on the Beatitudes as recounted in the day’s Gospel according to Matthew, and added some “new” Beatitudes of his own.

In what was the final event of his overnight stay in southern Sweden to mark the start of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, the Holy Father celebrated Mass under gray skies and very chilly temperatures in a stadium in Malmo, where the faithful included Catholics from other Nordic countries as well as Filippino immigrants who work in these nations. (photo: news.va)

malmo-mass

“The Beatitudes,” said Francis, “are the image of Christ and consequently of each Christian.  Here I would like to mention only one: ‘Blessed are the meek’.  Jesus says of himself: ‘Learn from me for I am meek and lowly in heart’.  This is his spiritual portrait and it reveals the abundance of his love.  Meekness is a way of living and acting that draws us close to Jesus and to one another.  It enables us to set aside everything that divides and estranges us, and to find ever new ways to advance along the path of unity.

He explained that “the Beatitudes are in some sense the Christian’s identity card.  They identify us as followers of Jesus.  We are called to be blessed, to be followers of Jesus, to confront the troubles and anxieties of our age with the spirit and love of Jesus.  Thus we ought to be able to recognize and respond to new situations with fresh spiritual energy.”

Pope Francis then created his own list of six Beatitudes: “Blessed are those who remain faithful while enduring evils inflicted on them by others, and forgive them from their heart.  Blessed are those who look into the eyes of the abandoned and marginalized, and show them their closeness.  Blessed are those who see God in every person, and strive to make others also discover him.  Blessed are those who protect and care for our common home.  Blessed are those who renounce their own comfort in order to help others.  Blessed are those who pray and work for full communion between Christians.  All these are messengers of God’s mercy and tenderness, and surely they will receive from him their merited reward.”

Pope Francis’ homily was quite beautiful, encouraging all of us aim high, as the saints did, and to remember that today’s Solemnity of All Saints, is a “celebration of holiness.  A holiness that is seen not so much in great deeds and extraordinary events, but rather in daily fidelity to the demands of our baptism.  A holiness that consists in the love of God and the love of our brothers and sisters.  A love that remains faithful to the point of self-renunciation and complete devotion to others.”

Click here for that full homily:  http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-celebrates-mass-at-malmo

BE SALT AND LIGHT: EXPRESS FAITH IN PRAYER, SACRAMENTS AND SERVICE TO THE SUFFERING

Following Mass in the Malmo stadium Tuesday, Solemnity of All Saints, Pope Francis had a message for the faithful before reciting the Angelus. Thanking God for his visit, Francis said, “As Catholics, we are part of a great family and are sustained in the same communion.  I encourage you to express your faith in prayer, in the sacraments, and in generous service to those who are suffering and in need.  I urge you to be salt and light, wherever you find yourselves, through the way you live and act as followers of Jesus, and to show great respect and solidarity with our brothers and sisters of other churches and Christian communities, and with all people of good will.” (photo news.va)

malmo-angelus

The Pope noted that, “In our life, we are not alone; we have the constant help and companionship of the Virgin Mary.  Today she stands before us as first among the saints, the first disciple of the Lord.  We flee to her protection and to her we present our sorrows and our joys, our fears and our aspirations.  We put everything under her protection, in the sure knowledge that she watches over us and cares for us with a mother’s love.

Francis asked those present to keep him in their prayers, adding, “I keep you all very present in my own. Now, together, let us turn to Our Lady and pray the Angelus.”

Earlier the Pope expressed his “gratitude to Bishop Anders Arborelius of Stockholm for his kind words, and to the civil authorities and all who helped in the planning and execution of this visit.” He also greeted the president and the secretary general of the Lutheran World Federation, the archbishop of the Church of Sweden, members of the ecumenical delegations and the diplomatic corps present for the occasion.

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IN DARK VALLEYS, PLACE YOURSELF IN THE LORD’S HANDS – PAPAL MESSAGES TO VICTIMS OF TERROR IN AFRICA, TURKEY

IN DARK VALLEYS, PLACE YOURSELF IN THE LORD’S HANDS

While I rarely offer the Holy Father’s homilies delivered at Mass each morning in the Santa Marta residence, they are always available at news.va where many people have formed a daily habit of reading them.

Today’s homily was so special (not to imply that others are not!) that I want to bring you Vatican Radio’s summary. As I’ve mentioned before, the homily is delivered by Pope Francis in Italian, and when the audio arrives at the radio, staff members transcribe and/or summarize what they hear. Those summaries are then posted on the news.va website. Today the Pope spoke of the “dark valleys” in our lives and he asked questions that we all ask about evil and sickness and suffering.

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday spoke of a series of events and situations that shed shadows on our lives and lead us to ask difficult questions.

Speaking during morning Mass at the Casa Santa Marta, the Pope remembered a homeless man who recently died of the cold here in Rome; he recalled the sisters of Charity who were killed in an attack in Yemen; and his thoughts flew to the many people who continue to fall ill in the so-called “triangle of death” in the southern Italian region of Campania where the illegal burning of toxic waste causes cancer and despair. As we are forced to face these “dark valleys” of our time, he said, the only answer is to trust in God. (photo: news.va)

MAss LENt

“Even when we do not understand – such as before the illness of a child – let us put ourselves in the hands of the Lord who never abandons His people,” he said.

Reflecting on the reading of the day that tells of Susanna, a just woman who is “soiled” by the “evil desire” of two judges, but chooses to trust in God rather than succumb to their wish, Pope Francis said that that even when we find ourselves walking in a“valley of darkness” we need not fear evil.

How many dark valleys; where are you Lord?

The Lord, the Pope said, always walks with us, loves us and does not abandon us. And he turned his attention to some of the many “dark valleys” of our time:

“When we look at the many dark valleys, at the many misfortunes, at the fact there are so many people dying of hunger, there is war, there are so many children with disabilities… and, asking their parents, we discover they suffer from something called a ‘rare disease’…  And the things we create ourselves: think of the cancers caused by the ‘triangle of death’… When you look at all this you ask: ‘where is the Lord’, ‘where are you?’ ‘Are you walking with me?’ This was Susanna’s sentiment. And it is ours too. Look at those four slain sisters of ours: they were serving with love; they ended up murdered in hatred! When you see that doors are being closed to refugees who are left out in the cold… you say: ‘Lord, where are You?’ “.

Why does a child suffer? I do not know why, but I trust in God

“How can I entrust myself to God,” asked the Pope, “when I see all these things? And when things happen to me, each of us may say: how can I entrust myself to You?” There is an answer to this question, but it cannot be explained.”

“Why does a child suffer? I do not know: it is a mystery to me,” said Pope Francis.

And recalling Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, the Pope pointed out that, although he is suffering, he trusts in the Father and knows that all will not end with death, with the cross.

Pope Francis, pointing out that Jesus’ last words before dying on the cross were ‘Father into your hands I commend my spirit’,” said: “To trust in God who walks with me, walks with His people, walks with the Church: this is an act of faith. To entrust myself. I cannot explain it, but I place myself in Your hands. You know why”.

Suffering and evil are not final, the Lord is always with us

And this, he said, is the teaching of Jesus: “He who entrusts himself to the Lord our Shepherd, shall lack nothing.”

Even if he finds himself going through the darkest of valleys, Pope Francis said that, “he knows that the suffering is only of the moment and that the Lord is with him: ‘Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me’. This is a grace we must ask for: ‘Lord, teach me to place myself in your hands, to trust in Your guidance, even in bad times, in the darkest moments, in the moment of death’.”

Pope Francis said that, “We would do well today to think about our lives, about the problems we have, and ask for the grace to place ourselves into the hands of the Lord.”

And he invited the faithful to think of the many men and women who do not even receive a last caress before dying.

“Three days ago a homeless person died here, on the street: he died of cold. In the middle of Rome, a city that has all the possibilities of providing assistence.Why, Lord?  Not even a caress … But I entrust myself to You because You never let me down.”

“Lord,” concluded the Pope, “I do not understand you. This is a beautiful prayer. Without understanding, I place myself in Your hands”.

PAPAL MESSAGES TO VICTIMS OF TERROR IN AFRICA, TURKEY

Two of life’s “dark valleys” occurred over the weekend in the Ivory Coast and in Ankara, Turkey where dozens died at the hands of terrorists. Pope Fra cis sent messages to both countries, expressing his condolences  and his spiritual closeness to the victims, their loved ones and to first responders.

In the Ivory Coast, gunmen opened fire on people vacationing at a popular beach resort in Grand-Bassam which is east of the commercial capital of Abidjan. The telegram, sent in the Pope’s name by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin to Bishop Raymond Ahoua of Grand Bassam, said,Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin said, “Upon hearing the news of the heinous attack in Grand-Bassam, His Holiness Pope Francis presents condolences to the bereaved and assures the injured his spiritual closeness. The Holy Father again condemns violence and hatred in all forms.”

Eighteen people were killed, including 15 civilians, 3 members of the country’s special forces, and 3 of the attackers. An additional 33 were wounded.

A suicide car bombing Sunday evening in Ankara, Turkey, killed at least 37 people and wounded more than 120 when a bomb was detonated near bus stops in Turkey’s capital.

In a telegram to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Cardinal Pietro Parolin wrote that the Pope was “deeply saddened to learn of the injury and tragic loss of life caused by the bombing in Ankara. His Holiness Pope Francis assures the Turkish people of his spiritual closeness and solidarity.  He prays for the eternal rest of those who have died and for all who mourn their loss, as well as for the recovery of those affected by this heinous act of violence.  Mindful of the generous service being rendered by security and emergency personnel, His Holiness invokes the divine blessings of peace, healing and strength upon the nation.”

POPE FRANCIS OPENS SYNOD ON THE FAMILY: “THE CHURCH MUST TEACH IN TRUTH AND IN CHARITY”

Today is the feast of St. Francis of Assisi –San Francesco – and thus the Holy Father’s name day, onomastico in Italian! Many best wishes, Pope Francis! May God sit on your shoulder!

POPE FRANCIS OPENS SYNOD ON THE FAMILY: “THE CHURCH MUST TEACH IN TRUTH AND IN CHARITY”

Pope Francis’ homily at the Mass today to open the Synod of Bishops on the family was a beautiful and masterful weaving of three themes – solitude, love between man and woman, and the family – into a tapestry that defines the Church’s teaching on love, marriage and the family, and also lays out some guidelines for the Synod Fathers as they discuss these issues over the next three weeks.

He spoke in the midst of hundreds of Synod Fathers and invited guests who will participate in the work sessions of the synod on the family, starting tomorrow. St. Peter’s basilica was awash in green flowers and vestments, the liturgical color for Ordinary Time, and the red and fuschia zucchettos of cardinals, archbishops and bishops. (photo: ANSA)

SYNOD MASS - ANSA

“In (today’s) extremely difficult social and marital context,” said Francis, “the Church is called to carry out her mission in fidelity, truth and love.” While the synod should adhere to the Church’s Magisterium, its body of teaching – on marriage, for example, as a permanent, indissoluble union between a man and a woman – Synod Fathers should be open to showing understanding, mercy and charity when situations place the faithful in difficult, perhaps seemingly impossible, situations.

The Pope reiterated his oft used image of the Church being a “field hospital with doors wide open to whoever knocks in search of help and support; even more, to reach out to others with true love, to walk with our fellow men and women who suffer, to include them and guide them to the wellspring of salvation.”

The entire homily follows and will not take long to read. What will take some time are the pauses to reflect on and digest some of his powerful phrases, to re-think his words later in the day. And why not discuss them in your family! This is what the synod is all about –family!

“If we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us” ( 1 Jn 4:12).

This Sunday’s Scripture readings seem to have been chosen precisely for this moment of grace which the Church is experiencing: the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the family, which begins with this Eucharistic celebration. The readings centre on three themes: solitude, love between man and woman, and the family .

Solitude

Adam, as we heard in the first reading, was living in the Garden of Eden. He named all the other creatures as a sign of his dominion, his clear and undisputed power, over all of them. Nonetheless, he felt alone, because “there was not found a helper fit for him” ( Gen 2:20). He was lonely.

The drama of solitude is experienced by countless men and women in our own day. I think of the elderly, abandoned even by their loved ones and children; widows and widowers; the many men and women left by their spouses; all those who feel alone, misunderstood and unheard; migrants and refugees fleeing from war and persecution; and those many young people who are victims of the culture of consumerism, the culture of waste, the throwaway culture.

Today we experience the paradox of a globalized world filled with luxurious mansions and skyscrapers, but a lessening of the warmth of homes and families; many ambitious plans and projects, but little time to enjoy them; many sophisticated means of entertainment, but a deep and growing interior emptiness; many pleasures, but few loves; many liberties, but little freedom… The number of people who feel lonely keeps growing, as does the number of those who are caught up in selfishness, gloominess, destructive violence and slavery to pleasure and money.

Our experience today is, in some way, like that of Adam: so much power and at the same time so much loneliness and vulnerability. The image of this is the family. People are less and less serious about building a solid and fruitful relationship of love: in sickness and in health, for better and for worse, in good times and in bad. Love which is lasting, faithful, conscientious, stable and fruitful is increasingly looked down upon, viewed as a quaint relic of the past. It would seem that the most advanced societies are the very ones which have the lowest birth-rates and the highest percentages of abortion, divorce, suicide, and social and environmental pollution.

Love between man and woman

In the first reading we also hear that God was pained by Adam’s loneliness. He said: “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him” ( Gen 2:18). These words show that nothing makes man’s heart as happy as another heart like his own, a heart which loves him and takes away his sense of being alone. These words also show that God did not create us to live in sorrow or to be alone. He made men and women for happiness, to share their journey with someone who complements them, to live the wondrous experience of love: to love and to be loved, and to see their love bear fruit in children, as the Psalm proclaimed today says (cf. Ps 128).

This is God’s dream for his beloved creation: to see it fulfilled in the loving union between a man and a woman, rejoicing in their shared journey, fruitful in their mutual gift of self. It is the same plan which Jesus presents in today’s Gospel: “From the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female’. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh” ( Mk 10:6-8; cf. Gen 1:27; 2:24).

To a rhetorical question – probably asked as a trap to make him unpopular with the crowd, which practiced divorce as an established and inviolable fact – Jesus responds in a straightforward and unexpected way. He brings everything back to the beginning, to the beginning of creation, to teach us that God blesses human love, that it is he who joins the hearts of two people who love one another, he who joins them in unity and indissolubility. This shows us that the goal of conjugal life is not simply to live together for life, but to love one another for life! In this way Jesus re-establishes the order which was present from the beginning.

Family

“What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder” ( Mk 10:9). This is an exhortation to believers to overcome every form of individualism and legalism which conceals a narrow self-centredness and a fear of accepting the true meaning of the couple and of human sexuality in God’s plan.

Indeed, only in the light of the folly of the gratuitousness of Jesus’ paschal love will the folly of the gratuitousness of an exclusive and life-long conjugal love make sense. For God, marriage is not some adolescent utopia, but a dream without which his creatures will be doomed to solitude! Indeed, being afraid to accept this plan paralyzes the human heart.

Paradoxically, people today – who often ridicule this plan – continue to be attracted and fascinated by every authentic love, by every steadfast love, by every fruitful love, by every faithful and enduring love. We see people chase after fleeting loves while dreaming of true love; they chase after carnal pleasures but desire total self-giving. “Now that we have fully tasted the promises of unlimited freedom, we begin to appreciate once again the old phrase: “world-weariness”. Forbidden pleasures lost their attraction at the very moment they stopped being forbidden. Even if they are pushed to the extreme and endlessly renewed, they prove dull, for they are finite realities, whereas we thirst for the infinite” (JOSEPH RATZINGER, Auf Christus schauen. Einübung in Glaube, Hoffnung, Liebe, Freiburg, 1989, p. 73).

In this extremely difficult social and marital context, the Church is called to carry out her mission in fidelity, truth and love.

To carry out her mission in fidelity to her Master as a voice crying out in the desert, in defending faithful love and encouraging the many families who live married life as an experience which reveals of God’s love; in defending the sacredness of life, of every life; in defending the unity and indissolubility of the conjugal bond as a sign of God’s grace and of the human person’s ability to love seriously.

The Church is called to carry out her mission in truth, which is not changed by passing fads or popular opinions. The truth which protects individuals and humanity as a whole from the temptation of self-centredness and from turning fruitful love into sterile selfishness, faithful union into temporary bonds. “Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way. In a culture without truth, this is the fatal risk facing love” (BENEDICT XVI, Caritas in Veritate , 3).

And the Church is called to carry out her mission in charity, not pointing a finger in judgment of others, but – faithful to her nature as a mother – conscious of her duty to seek out and care for hurting couples with the balm of acceptance and mercy; to be a “field hospital” with doors wide open to whoever knocks in search of help and support; even more, to reach out to others with true love, to walk with our fellow men and women who suffer, to include them and guide them to the wellspring of salvation.

A Church which teaches and defends fundamental values, while not forgetting that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” ( Mk 2:27); and that Jesus also said: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” ( Mk 2:17). A Church which teaches authentic love, which is capable of taking loneliness away, without neglecting her mission to be a good Samaritan to wounded humanity .

I remember when Saint John Paul II said: “Error and evil must always be condemned and opposed; but the man who falls or who errs must be understood and loved… we must love our time and help the man of our time” (JOHN PAUL II, Address to the Members of Italian Catholic Action , 30 December 1978). The Church must search out these persons, welcome and accompany them, for a Church with closed doors betrays herself and her mission, and, instead of being a bridge, becomes a roadblock: “For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified have all one origin. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brethren” ( Heb 2:11).

In this spirit we ask the Lord to accompany us during the Synod and to guide his Church, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, her most chaste spouse.