Apostle


Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good Morning!

When we recite the Creed we say “I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church”. I don’t know if you have ever reflected on the meaning of the expression “the Church is apostolic”. Perhaps from time to time, coming to Rome, you have thought about the importance of the Apostles Peter and Paul who here gave their lives to bring and bear witness to the Gospel.

But it is even more. To profess that the Church is apostolic means to stress the constitutive bond that she has with the Apostles, with that small group of 12 men whom Jesus one day called to himself, he called them by name, that they might remain with him and that he might send them out to preach (cf. Mk 3:13-19). “Apostle”, in fact, is a Greek word meaning “sent”, “dispatched”. An Apostle is a person who has been given a mandate, he is sent to do something and the Apostles were chosen, called and sent out by Jesus to continue his work, that is to pray — which is the primary job of an apostle — and, second, to proclaim the Gospel. This is important, because when we think of the Apostles we might think that they were only sent out to proclaim the Gospel, to do many good deeds. However, a problem arose in the early times of the Church because of how much the Apostles had to do, and that is why they instituted deacons, so that there would be more time for the Apostles to pray and proclaim the Word of God. When we think of the Successors of the Apostles, the bishops — this includes the Pope for he too is a bishop — we must ask ourselves if this successor of the Apostles prays first and then proclaims the Gospel: this is what it means to be an Apostle and this is what makes the Church apostolic. Every one of us, if we want to be apostles as I shall explain now, must ask ourselves: do I pray for the salvation of the world? Do I proclaim the Gospel? This is the Church apostolic! It is the constitutive bond that we have with the Apostles.

Starting from this I would like to focus briefly on the three meanings of the adjective “apostolic” as it is applied to the Church.

1. The Church is apostolic because she is founded on the preaching and prayer of the Apostles, on the authority that was entrusted to them by Christ himself. St Paul writes to the Christians of Ephesus: “You are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being a cornerstone” (2:19-20); that is, he compares Christians to living stones that form an edifice that is the Church, and this edifice is founded on the Apostles, like columns, and the cornerstone that carries it all is Jesus himself. Without Jesus the Church cannot exist! Jesus is the foundation of the Church, the foundation! The Apostles lived with Jesus, they listened to his words, they shared his life, above all they were witnesses of his Death and Resurrection. Our faith, the Church that Christ willed, is not based on an idea, it is not based on a philosophy, it is based on Christ himself. And the Church is like a plant that over the long centuries has grown, has developed, has borne fruit, yet her roots are planted firmly in Him and that fundamental experience of Christ which the Apostles had, chosen and sent out by Jesus, reaching all the way to us. From this little plant to our day: this is how the Church has spread everywhere in the world.

2. But let us ask ourselves: how is it possible for us to be connected to that testimony, how could what the Apostles’ experienced with Jesus, what they heard from him reach us? This is the second meaning of the term “apostolic”. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that the Church is apostolic because “with the help of the Spirit dwelling in her, the Church keeps and hands on the teaching, the ‘good deposit’, the salutary words she has heard from the Apostles” (n. 857). Over the centuries, the Church conserves this precious treasure, which is Sacred Scripture, doctrine, the Sacraments, the ministry of Pastors, so that we can be faithful to Christ and share in his very life. It is like a river coursing through history, developing, irrigating; but running water always comes from a source, and the source is Christ himself: he is the Risen One, he is the Living One, and his words never pass away, for he does not pass, he is alive, he is among us today, he hears us and we speak to him and he listens, he is in our hearts. Jesus is with us today! This is the beauty of the Church: the presence of Jesus Christ among us. Do we ever think about how important this gift that Jesus gave us is, the gift of the Church, where we can meet him? Do we ever think about how it is precisely the Church on her journey through the centuries — despite the difficulties, the problems, the weaknesses, our sins — that transmits to us the authentic message of Christ? She gives us the certainty that what we believe in is really what Christ communicated to us?

3. My final thought: the Church is apostolic because she is sent to bring the Gospel to all the world. She continues in history the mission which Jesus entrusted to the Apostles: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:19-20). This is what Jesus told us to do! I insist on this missionary aspect, because Christ invites all to “go out” and encounter others, he sends us, he asks us to move in order to spread the joy of the Gospel! Once again let us ask ourselves: are we missionaries by our words, and especially by our Christian life, by our witness? Or are we Christians closed in our hearts and in our churches, sacristy Christians? Are we Christians in name only, who live like pagans? We must ask ourselves these questions, which are not a rebuke. I ask myself as well: what kind of Christian am I, is my witness true?

The Church’s roots are in the teaching of the Apostles, the authentic witnesses of Christ, but she looks to the future, she has the firm consciousness of being sent — sent by Jesus — of being missionary, bearing the name of Jesus by her prayer, proclaiming it and testifying to it. A Church that is closed in on herself and in the past, a Church that only sees the little rules of behaviour, of attitude, is a Church that betrays her own identity; a closed Church betrays her own identity! Then, let us rediscover today all the beauty and responsibility of being the Church apostolic! And remember this: the Church is apostolic because we pray — our first duty — and because we proclaim the Gospel by our life and by our words.




Pope Francis   29.06.17 Holy Mass, Saint Peter's Basilica     Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul Apostles    Acts 12: 1-11,    2 Timothy 4: 6-8, 17-18,    Matthew 16: 13-19

Pope Francis Saints Peter and Paul 29.06.17

The liturgy today offers us three words essential for the life of an apostle: confession, persecution and prayer.

Confession. Peter makes his confession of faith in the Gospel, when the Lord’s question turns from the general to the specific. At first, Jesus asks: “Who do men say that the Son of man is?” (Mt 16:13). The results of this “survey” show that Jesus is widely considered a prophet. Then the Master puts the decisive question to his disciples: “But you, who do you say that I am?” (v. 15). At this point, Peter alone replies: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (v. 16). To confess the faith means this: to acknowledge in Jesus the long-awaited Messiah, the living God, the Lord of our lives.

Today Jesus puts this crucial question to us, to each of us, and particularly to those of us who are pastors. It is the decisive question. It does not allow for a non-committal answer, because it brings into play our entire life. The question of life demands a response of life. For it counts little to know the articles of faith if we do not confess Jesus as the Lord of our lives. Today he looks straight at us and asks, “Who am I for you?” As if to say: “Am I still the Lord of your life, the longing of your heart, the reason for your hope, the source of your unfailing trust?” Along with Saint Peter, we too renew today our life choice to be Jesus’ disciples and apostles. May we too pass from Jesus’ first question to his second, so as to be “his own” not merely in words, but in our actions and our very lives.

Let us ask ourselves if we are parlour Christians, who love to chat about how things are going in the Church and the world, or apostles on the go, who confess Jesus with their lives because they hold him in their hearts. Those who confess Jesus know that they are not simply to offer opinions but to offer their very lives. They know that they are not to believe half-heartedly but to “be on fire” with love. They know that they cannot just “tread water” or take the easy way out, but have to risk putting out into the deep, daily renewing their self-offering. Those who confess their faith in Jesus do as Peter and Paul did: they follow him to the end – not just part of the way, but to the very end. They also follow the Lord along his way, not our own ways. His way is that of new life, of joy and resurrection; it is also the way that passes through the cross and persecution.

Here, then, is the second word: persecution. Peter and Paul shed their blood for Christ, but the early community as a whole also experienced persecution, as the Book of Acts has reminded us (cf. 12:1). Today too, in various parts of the world, sometimes in silence – often a complicit silence – great numbers of Christians are marginalized, vilified, discriminated against, subjected to violence and even death, not infrequently without due intervention on the part of those who could defend their sacrosanct rights.

Here I would especially emphasize something that the Apostle Paul says before, in his words, “being poured out as a libation” (2 Tim 4:6). For him, to live was Christ (cf. Phil 1:21), Christ crucified (cf. 1 Cor 2:2), who gave his life for him (cf. Gal 2:20). As a faithful disciple, Paul thus followed the Master and offered his own life too. Apart from the cross, there is no Christ, but apart from the cross, there can be no Christian either. For “Christian virtue is not only a matter of doing good, but of tolerating evil as well” (Augustine, Serm. 46,13), even as Jesus did. Tolerating evil does not have to do simply with patience and resignation; it means imitating Jesus, carrying our burden, shouldering it for his sake and that of others. It means accepting the cross, pressing on in the confident knowledge that we are not alone: the crucified and risen Lord is at our side. So, with Paul, we can say that “we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken” (2 Cor 4:8-9).

Tolerating evil means overcoming it with Jesus, and in Jesus’ own way, which is not the way of the world. This is why Paul – as we heard – considered himself a victor about to receive his crown (cf. 2 Tim 4:8). He writes: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (v. 7). The essence of his “good fight” was living for: he lived not for himself, but for Jesus and for others. He spent his life “running the race”, not holding back but giving his all. He tells us that there is only one thing that he “kept”: not his health, but his faith, his confession of Christ. Out of love, he experienced trials, humiliations and suffering, which are never to be sought but always accepted. In the mystery of suffering offered up in love, in this mystery, embodied in our own day by so many of our brothers and sisters who are persecuted, impoverished and infirm, the saving power of Jesus’ cross shines forth.

The third word is prayer. The life of an apostle, which flows from confession and becomes self-offering, is one of constant prayer. Prayer is the water needed to nurture hope and increase fidelity. Prayer makes us feel loved and it enables us to love in turn. It makes us press forward in moments of darkness because it brings God’s light. In the Church, it is prayer that sustains us and helps us to overcome difficulties. We see this too in the first reading: “Peter was kept in prison; but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the Church” (Acts 12:5). A Church that prays is watched over and cared for by the Lord. When we pray, we entrust our lives to him and to his loving care. Prayer is the power and strength that unite and sustain us, the remedy for the isolation and self-sufficiency that lead to spiritual death. The Spirit of life does not breathe unless we pray; without prayer, the interior prisons that hold us captive cannot be unlocked.

May the blessed Apostles obtain for us a heart like theirs, wearied yet at peace, thanks to prayer. Wearied, because constantly asking, knocking and interceding, weighed down by so many people and situations needing to be handed over to the Lord; yet also at peace, because the Holy Spirit brings consolation and strength when we pray. How urgent it is for the Church to have teachers of prayer, but even more so for us to be men and women of prayer, whose entire life is prayer!

The Lord answers our prayers. He is faithful to the love we have professed for him, and he stands beside us at times of trial. He accompanied the journey of the Apostles, and he will do the same for you, dear brother Cardinals, gathered here in the charity of the Apostles who confessed their faith by the shedding of their blood. He will remain close to you too, dear brother Archbishops who, in receiving the pallium, will be strengthened to spend your lives for the flock, imitating the Good Shepherd who bears you on his shoulders. May the same Lord, who longs to see his flock gathered together, also bless and protect the Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, together with my dear brother Bartholomew, who has sent them here as a sign of our apostolic communion.






Pope Francis   07.2.19    Holy Mass  Santa Marta    Mark 6: 7-13
Pope Francis 07.02.19 Mass at Santa Marta

The Gospel tells of how Jesus sends his disciples into the world to bring healing, just as He Himself came into the world to heal. To heal the root of sin in us, the original sin.
Healing is a bit like creating from anew. Jesus recreated us from the root and then allowed us to move forward with his teaching, with his doctrine, a doctrine that heals.

But, the first requisite is that there be conversion. Conversion is the first step of healing in the sense that it opens the heart so that the Word of God may enter.

If someone is sick and refuses to go to the doctor he will not be healed.

As Christians, we may do many good things, but if our hearts our closed, it’s only a façade.

In order to proclaim so that people may convert, one requires authority that comes from being like Jesus.

In the Gospel Jesus instructs the Apostles to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick - no food, no sack, no money in their belts. In essence, poverty.

The apostle must be a pastor who does not seek sheep's milk, who does not seek sheep's wool.  As expressed by Saint Augustine the shepherd who seeks milk seeks money, and the shepherd who seeks wool likes to dress with vanity.

I invite Christians to follow a path of poverty, humility, meekness. Jesus told the Apostles “Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet”, but do so with meekness and humility.

If an apostle, an envoy, one of us goes, with his nose in the air, believing himself superior to the others or because of self-interest looking for some human interest
he will never heal anyone, he will never succeed in opening anyone's heart, because his word will have no authority.

After having exhorted to conversion, the Twelve drove out many demons and they could do so because they had the authority to say “This is a demon! This is a sin.”
This authority is not the authority of someone who speaks down to people, but of someone who is interested in people. Demons flee before humility, before the power of Christ’s name with which the apostle carries out his mission, because demons cannot bear that sins be healed.

The Apostles also anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them. The anointing is the caress of God, so all apostles must learn this wisdom of God’s caresses.

All Christians can bring healing, not only priests and bishops: “each of us has the power to heal his brother or sister.”

We all need to be healed, and we can all heal others if we are humble and meek: with a good word, with patience, with a glance.