God's True Face



Pope Francis  08.05.20 General Audience, Library of the Apostolic Palace Wednesday of Holy Week                Mark 15: 39

Pope Francis The true Face of God 08.04.20

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

In these weeks of apprehension about the pandemic that is causing the world to suffer so much, among the many questions we ask ourselves, there may also be one about God: what does he do before our pain? Where is he when everything is going wrong? Why doesn't he solve the problems immediately? These are questions we ask about God.

The account of the Passion of Jesus, which accompanies us in these holy days, helps us. There, too, there are many questions. The people, having welcomed Jesus triumphantly to Jerusalem, wondered whether he would finally free the people from their enemies (cf. Luke 24:21). They expected a powerful, triumphant Messiah with a sword. Instead one arrives who is meek and humble heart, and who calls for conversion and mercy. And it was the crowd, who had previously praised him, who shouted: "Let him be crucified!" (Mt 27:23). Those who followed him, confused and frightened, abandoned him. They thought: if this is the fate of Jesus, he is not the Messiah, because God is strong, God is invincible. 

But, if we go on reading the account of the Passion, we find a surprising fact. When Jesus died, the Roman centurion who was not a believer, was not Jewish but was a pagan, who had seen him suffer on the cross and had heard him forgive everyone, who had touched his love without measure, confesses: "Truly this man was the Son of God"(Mark 15:39). He says exactly the opposite of what the others said. He says that there is God, he is truly God.
 
Let us ask ourselves today: what is the true face of God? Usually we project onto him who we are, to the highest power: our success, our sense of justice, and also our indignation. But the Gospel tells us that God is not like that. He is different and we cannot know him by our own efforts. That's why he came close, came to meet us and at Easter he completely revealed himself. And where did he reveal himself completely? On the cross. There we learn the features of God's face. Let us not forget, brothers and sisters, that the cross is the chair of God. It will do us good to look at the Crucifix in silence and see who our Lord is: he is the one who does not point a finger at someone, not even against those who are crucifying him, but opens his arms to all; who does not crush us with his glory, but lets himself be stripped for us; who does not love us in words, but gives us his life in silence; who does not force us, but frees us; who does not treat us as strangers, but takes our evil upon himself, takes our sins upon himself. And this, in order to free us from prejudices about God, we look at the Crucifix. And then we open the Gospel. In these days, all quarantined and at home, closed in, let us take these two things in our hands: the Crucifix, let's look at it; and open the Gospel. This will be for us – let's say – like a great domestic liturgy, because these days we cannot go to church. The Crucifix and the Gospel!

In the Gospel we read that when people go to Jesus to make him king, for example after the multiplication of loaves, He leaves (cf. John 6:15). And when the unclean spirits want to reveal his divine majesty, he silences them (cf. Mark 1:24-25). Why? Because Jesus does not want to be misunderstood, he does not want people to confuse the true God, who is humble love, with a false god, a worldly god who puts on a show and imposes himself by force. He's not an idol. He is God who has made himself a man, like each of us, and expresses himself as a man but with the strength of his divinity. Instead, when is the identity of Jesus solemnly proclaimed in the Gospel? When the centurion says, "Truly this man was the Son of God." It is said there, as soon as he gave his life on the cross, because we can no longer be mistaken: we see that God is omnipotent in love, and not in any other way. It's his nature, because he's like that. He is Love.

You might object, "What can I do with a God so weak, that he dies? I would prefer a strong God, a powerful God!" But you know, the power of this world passes while love remains. Only love protects the life we have, because it embraces our weaknesses and transforms them. It is the love of God who at Easter healed our sin with his forgiveness, who made death a passage of life, who changed our fear into trust, our anguish into hope. Easter tells us that God can turn everything into good. That with him we can really trust that all will be well. And this is not an illusion, because the death and resurrection of Jesus is not an illusion: it is a truth! That's why we're told on Easter morning, "Don't be afraid!" (cf. Mt 28:5). And the distressing questions about evil do not suddenly fade away, but find in the Risen One a solid foundation that allows us not to go down with the ship.

Dear brothers and sisters, Jesus changed history by making himself close to us and he made it, however still marked by evil, a story of salvation. By offering his life on the cross, Jesus also conquered death. From the open heart of the Crucified One, God's love reaches each of us. We can change our stories by drawing near to him, welcoming the salvation he offers us. Brothers and sisters, let us open our hearts to him in prayer this week, these days: with the Crucifix and with the Gospel. Don't forget: The Crucifix and Gospel. The domestic liturgy, this is what it will be. Let us open our hearts in prayer, let his gaze be on us and understand that we are not alone, but loved, because the Lord does not abandon us and never forgets us. And with these thoughts, I wish you a Holy Week and a Holy Easter.