Dear brothers and sisters,
Today’s Gospel presents the beginning of Jesus’ preaching in Galilee. Saint Mark highlights that Jesus began to preach “after John [the Baptist] had been arrested” (1,14). Precisely in this moment in which the prophetic voice of the Baptizer, who announced the coming of the Kingdom of God, is silenced by Herod, Jesus begins to walk the streets of his land to bring to all, especially the poor, “the Gospel of God” (ibid). Jesus’ announcement is similar to that of John, with the major difference that Jesus does not indicate that another is to come: it is Jesus Himself who is the fulfillment of the promise; He is the “good news” to believe in, to receive and to communicate to men and women of all time, so that they also entrust to Him their existence. Jesus Christ Himself is the living Word and He is active in history: he who listens to Him and follows Him will enter the Kingdom of God.
Jesus is the fulfillment of the divine promise because it is He who gives mankind the Holy Spirit, the “living water” that quenches our restless heart that thirsts for life, love, freedom, peace: that thirsts for God. He revealed Himself to the Samaritan woman, who He met at Jacob’s well, to whom He said: “Give me to drink” (Jn.4,7). These very words of Christ, addressed to the Samaritan [woman], were the theme of the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity which concludes today. This evening, with the faithful of the diocese of Rome and with the representatives of the various Churches and ecclesial communities, we will meet in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls to pray fervently to the Lord, so that he strengthens our commitment to the unity of all believers in Christ. It is an ugly thing that Christians are divided. But Jesus wants us to be united. One body! Our sins, our history have divided us. For this we must pray that the Spirit unites us again.
God, who made Himself man, had our thirst, not only of water, but above all the thirst of a full life, free from the slavery of evil and death. At the same time, with His incarnation God has placed His thirst, because God also thirsts, in the heart of mankind: Jesus of Nazareth. Therefore, in the heart of Christ, human and divine thirst meets. And the desire for the unity of his disciples belongs to this thirst. We find it expressed in the prayers raised to the Father before the Passion: “So that they all may be one” (Jn. 17,21). That is what Jesus wanted, the unity of all. The devil, as we know, is the father of division. He is one that always divides, always makes war and does so much evil.
May Jesus’ thirst increasingly become our thist! We continue, therefore, to pray and strive for the full unity of the Disciples of Christ, in the certainty that He Himself is at our side and sustains us with the strength of His Spirit so that this goal can be reached. And we entrust this, our prayer, to the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, Mother of Christ and Mother of the Church so that She, like a good Mother, may unite us.
After the Angelus:
Dear brothers and sisters,
I follow with deep concern the escalation of fighting in eastern Ukraine, which continues to cause many casualties among the civilian population. As I assure you of my prayers for all who suffer, I renew a heartfelt appeal so that efforts for dialogue can resume and an end to all hostilities.
Today we celebrate World Leprosy Day. I express my closeness to all people who suffer from this disease, as well as those take care of them, and for those who fight to remove the causes of the disease, whose conditions of life do not dignify man. Let us renew our commitment of solidarity for these brothers and sisters!
I affectionately greet all of you, dear pilgrims who have come from different parishes in Italy and from other countries, as well as the associations and school groups.
In particular, I greet the Filipino community of Rome. My dear ones, the Filipino people are wonderful, for their strong and joyful faith. May the Lord sustain you always, you who live far from your country. Thank you for your witness! And thank you so much for all the good that you do for us; because you sow faith to us. You give a beautiful witness of faith!
I greet the students of Cuenca, Villafranca de los Barros and Badajoz (Spain), the parish groups from the Isole Baleari and the young women from Panama. I greet the faithful from Catania, Diamante, Delianuova and Crespano del Grappa.
I now address the young girls and boys of Catholic Action in Rome. Dear young people, this year, accompanied by the Cardinal Vicar and Msgr. Mansueto, you have come in great numbers at the conclusion of your “Caravan of Peace”. I thank you and encourage you to continue the Christian path with joy, bringing to all the peace of Jesus. Now we will listen to the message that your friends will read, here next to me.
[Young girl reads a message from Catholic Action]
Thank you, young people. To all I wish a good Sunday and a good lunch. Please, pray for me. Arrivederci!