With this issue we are beginning a new “rubrica” (section) of the magazine, named “From the Domus Santa Marta.” I have chosen the passages from Pope Francis’ morning homilies which struck me most deeply, and helped deepen my own faith. In these homilies, he seems to be and to speak as a parish priest with his parishioners. Reading selections from these morning homilies, readers can understand more of Pope Francis’ magisterium and also benefit from his pastoral care of all the people of the Church — for each one of us, sheep of his flock.
—Maria Pia Carriquiry Gomez
He is the Savior and, as Savior even now, at this moment, intercedes for us January 1, 2015
Commenting on the Gospel of the day (Mark 3:7-12), which tells of great crowds rushing to Jesus from every region, Pope Francis said that the people of God see in the Lord “a hope, because His way of acting, teaching, touches their heart, reaches the heart, because it has the power of the Word of God.”
“The people feel this, and see that promises are fulfilled in Jesus, that in Jesus there is hope. The people were a bit bored by the way of teaching the faith, by the teachers of the Law of that time, who burdened the shoulders of the people with so many commandments, so many precepts, but did not come to people’s hearts. And when the people see Jesus and hear Jesus — His proposals, the Beatitudes — they feel something moving inside — it is the Holy Spirit that is causing people to stir — and they go to see Jesus.”
The crowd goes to Jesus to be healed: that is, they seek their own good. “Never,” said Pope Francis, “can we follow God with purity of intention right from the start: it is always a search undertaken a little for us, and a little for God — and the journey itself purifies this intention.” The Pope went on to say, “People go, yes, they look for God, but they also look for health, for healing — and they threw themselves upon Him to touch Him, that some power might go out of Him and heal them.”
The most important thing, however, is not that Jesus healed. Those healings were a sign of another healing, the Holy Father explained. Nor is the fact that Jesus says words that reach the heart the most important thing — though that certainly helps to meet God. The most important thing is in the Letter to the Hebrews (7:25), where it is written, “Jesus is always able to save those who approach God through him, since he lives forever to make intercession for them.”
“Jesus saves!” said Pope Francis. “These healings, these words that reach the heart, are the sign and the beginning of salvation — the path of salvation for many who begin to go to hear Jesus or to ask for a healing and then come back to Him and feel salvation.” He went on to ask, “What, though, is most important? That Jesus heals? No, that is not the most important thing. That He teaches us? That is not the most important thing [either]. [The most important thing] is that He saves! He is the Savior and we are saved by him: this is the most important thing, and this is the strength of our faith.”
Jesus ascended to the Father, “and from thence He continues to intercede, every day, every moment for us.”
“This is relevant today. Jesus stands before the Father, offering His life — the redemption — He shows His wounds to the Father, the price of salvation — and so it is that every day, Jesus intercedes. When we, for one thing or the other, are feeling a little down, let us remember that it is He who prays for us, intercedes for us continually. So many times we forget this: ‘Jesus … but yes, it’s finished, he’s gone to heaven, sent us the Holy Spirit, the story’s over.’ No! Even now, in every moment, Jesus intercedes. In this prayer: ‘Lord Jesus, have mercy on me,’ He intercedes for me. Turn to the Lord, asking for this intercession.”
That Jesus is savior and intercessor is the central point, and we do well to remember this. “Thus, the crowd seeks Jesus with that instinctive sense of hope that is proper to the people of God, which was at that time awaiting the Messiah, and they look to find in Him health, truth, salvation, for He is the Savior and as Savior even now, at this moment, intercedes for us. That our Christian life might be ever more convinced that we are saved, that we have a Savior, Jesus at the right hand of the Father, interceding. May the Lord, the Holy Spirit, make us understand these things.”
Only the Holy Spirit can teach us how to love and free us from hardened hearts January 9, 2015
The Pope’s reflections came from the day’s Gospel reading that recounted how the apostles were terrified when they saw Jesus walking on water. And the reason for their terror, he explained, is that their hearts were hardened.
Pope Francis said a person’s heart can be made of stone for many reasons, such as, for example, a painful experience in one’s life. But as he went on to point out, another reason for hardened hearts is because people are closed in on themselves.
“Creating a world within oneself, all closed in. Closed within oneself, in one’s community or parish, but always closed in. And this closure can revolve around so many things. But let’s think about pride, self-sufficiency, thinking I am better than others, and vanity too, right? There are ‘mirror-men and women’ (who are wedded to their own image in the mirror), who are closed in on themselves and are constantly looking at themselves, right? These religious narcissists, right? But they have a hardened heart because they are closed in on themselves, they are not open. And they seek to defend themselves with these walls that they have created around themselves.”
The Pope said these hardened hearts in people can also arise from a problem of insecurity, such as those who barricade themselves behind the laws and rules, as though inside a prison, to feel safer and follow these rules to the letter.
“When a heart becomes hardened, it’s not free and if it’s not free it’s because that person isn’t capable of love, that was the fate of the Apostle John in the first Reading. A love that’s perfect banishes fear: in love there’s no fear, because fear is expecting a punishment and a person who’s afraid doesn’t have a perfect love. He or she is not free. They are constantly afraid that something painful or sad will occur, that will cause their life to go badly or will endanger their eternal salvation… What an (over-active) imagination, because he or she can’t love. A person who isn’t capable of loving is not free. And their heart was hardened because they hadn’t learned how to love.”
Pope Francis concluded his homily by stressing that only the Holy Spirit can teach us how to love and free us from our hardened hearts.
“You can follow a thousand catechism courses, a thousand spirituality courses, a thousand yoga or zen courses and all these things. But none of this will be able to give you the freedom as a child (of God). Only the Holy Spirit can prompt your heart to say ‘Father.’ Only the Holy Spirit is capable of banishing, of breaking that hardness of heart and making it … soft? No, I don’t like that word, … ‘docile.’ Docile towards the Lord. Docile when it comes to the freedom to love.”
Pope Francis then went on to reflect on the sterility within the Church and her openness to becoming a mother through her faith.
“And today is also a day to pray for our Mother Church, because of so much sterility within the people of God. A sterility arising from egoism, from power… when the Church believes she can do everything, that she can take charge of the consciences of the people, walk along the road of the Pharisees, of the Sadducees, along the road of hypocrisy, yes, the Church is sterile. Let’s pray that this Christmas our Church may be open to the gift of God, that she may allow herself to be surprised by the Holy Spirit and be a Church that gives birth, a Mother Church. Many times I think that in some places the Church is more like an entrepreneur than a mother.”
The Church is a mother and only becomes a mother when she opens to the newness of God, to the strength of the Spirit. When she says to herself: ‘I do everything, but I’ve finished, I can’t go forward!’ the Spirit comes.”
The Pope concluded his homily by imploring the Lord for the grace of fertility and motherhood within our Church, so that above all the Church might be a mother, just like Mary.
—Texts from Vatican Radio