Here is the complete text, delivered without notes, of Pope Francis’ first homily given on March 14, in the Sistine Chapel where he had been elected Pope the day before.
In these three readings, I see that there is something in common: it is movement.
In the first reading, movement in walking; in the second reading, movement in the building up of the Church; in the third, in the Gospel, movement in confession.
To walk, to build up, to confess.
To walk. “House of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.”
This is the first thing that God said to Abraham: Walk in my presence and be without reproach. To walk: our life is a journey, and when we stop it is no good. To walk always, in the presence of the Lord, in the light of the Lord, seeking to live with that irreproachability which God asked of Abraham, in his promise.
To build up. To build up the Church. Stones are spoken of: the stones have substance; but living stones, stones anointed by the Holy Spirit. To build up the Church, the bride of Christ, on that cornerstone which is the Lord himself. This is another movement of our lives: to build up.
Third, to confess. We can walk as much as we wish, we can build many things, but if we do not confess Jesus Christ, it is no good. We will become a humanitarian NGO, but not the Church, bride of the Lord.
When one does not walk, one halts. When one does not build on stone, what happens? What happens to children on the beach when they make sand castles? It all comes down, it is without substance. When one does not confess Jesus Christ, I am reminded of the expression of Léon Bloy: “He who does not pray to the Lord prays to the devil.” When one does not confess Jesus Christ, one confesses the worldliness of the devil, the worldliness of the demon.
To walk, to build/construct, to confess. But the matter is not so easy, because in walking, in building, in confessing, at times there are shocks, there are movements that are not properly movements of the journey: they are movements that set us back.
This Gospel continues with a special situation. The same Peter who has confessed Jesus Christ says to him: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. I will follow you, but let us not speak of the cross. This has nothing to do with it. I will follow you with other possibilities, without the cross.”
When we walk without the cross, when we build without the cross, and when we confess Christ without the cross, we are not disciples of the Lord: We are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, Popes, but not disciples of the Lord.
I would like everyone, after these days of grace, to have the courage, truly the courage, to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the cross of the Lord; to build up the Church upon the blood of the Lord that was shed upon the cross; and to confess the only glory: Christ crucified. And in this way the Church will move forward.
I hope for all of us that the Holy Spirit, through the prayer of the Virgin Mary, our Mother, may grant us this grace: to walk, to build up, to confess Jesus Christ crucified. So may it be.
The three readings of the Mass “Pro Ecclesia,” on which Pope Francis commented, were taken from the Book of Isaiah (2:2-5), from the First Letter of Peter (2:4-9), and from the Gospel according to Matthew (16:13-19).