Holy Week

Pope Francis    27.03.13   General Audience   Catechesis on Holy Week


Brothers and Sisters, Good Morning!

I am glad to welcome you to my first General Audience. With deep gratitude and reverence I take up the “witness” from the hands of Benedict XVI, my beloved Predecessor. After Easter we shall resume the Catechesis for the
Year of Faith. Today I would like to reflect a little on Holy Week. We began this Week with Palm Sunday — the heart of the whole Liturgical Year — in which we accompany Jesus in his Passion, death and Resurrection.

But what does living Holy Week mean to us? What does following Jesus on his journey to Calvary on his way to the Cross and the Resurrection mean? In his earthly mission Jesus walked the roads of the Holy Land; he called 12 simple people to stay with him, to share his journey and to continue his mission. He chose them from among the people full of faith in God’s promises. He spoke to all without distinction: the great and the lowly, the rich young man and the poor widow, the powerful and the weak; he brought God’s mercy and forgiveness; he healed, he comforted, he understood; he gave hope; he brought to all the presence of God who cares for every man and every woman, just as a good father and a good mother care for each one of their children.

God does not wait for us to go to him but it is he who moves towards us, without calculation, without quantification. That is what God is like. He always takes the first step, he comes towards us.

Jesus lived the daily reality of the most ordinary people: he was moved as he faced the crowd that seemed like a flock without a shepherd; he wept before the sorrow that Martha and Mary felt at the death of their brother, Lazarus; he called a publican to be his disciple; he also suffered betrayal by a friend. In him God has given us the certitude that he is with us, he is among us. “Foxes”, he, Jesus, said, “have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head” (Mt 8:20). Jesus has no house, because his house is the people, it is we who are his dwelling place, his mission is to open God’s doors to all, to be the presence of God’s love.

In Holy Week we live the crowning moment of this journey, of this plan of love that runs through the entire history of the relations between God and humanity. Jesus enters Jerusalem to take his last step with which he sums up the whole of his existence. He gives himself without reserve, he keeps nothing for himself, not even life. At the Last Supper, with his friends, he breaks the bread and passes the cup round “for us”. The Son of God offers himself to us, he puts his Body and his Blood into our hands, so as to be with us always, to dwell among us. And in the Garden of Olives, and likewise in the trial before Pilate, he puts up no resistance, he gives himself; he is the suffering Servant, foretold by Isaiah, who empties himself, even unto death (cf. Is 53:12).

Jesus does not experience this love that leads to his sacrifice passively or as a fatal destiny. He does not of course conceal his deep human distress as he faces a violent death, but with absolute trust commends himself to the Father. Jesus gave himself up to death voluntarily in order to reciprocate the love of God the Father, in perfect union with his will, to demonstrate his love for us. On the Cross Jesus “loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20). Each one of us can say: “he loved me and gave himself for me”. Each one can say this “for me”.

What is the meaning of all this for us? It means that this is my, your and our road too. Living Holy Week, following Jesus not only with the emotion of the heart; living Holy Week, following Jesus means learning to
come out of ourselves — as I said last Sunday — in order to go to meet others, to go towards the outskirts of existence, to be the first to take a step towards our brothers and our sisters, especially those who are the most distant, those who are forgotten, those who are most in need of understanding, comfort and help. There is such a great need to bring the living presence of Jesus, merciful and full of love!

Living
Holy Week means entering ever more deeply into the logic of God, into the logic of the Cross, which is not primarily that of suffering and death, but rather that of love and of the gift of self which brings life. It means entering into the logic of the Gospel. Following and accompanying Christ, staying with him, demands “coming out of ourselves”, requires us to be outgoing; to come out of ourselves, out of a dreary way of living faith that has become a habit, out of the temptation to withdraw into our own plans which end by shutting out God’s creative action.

God came out of himself to come among us, he pitched his tent among us to bring to us his mercy that saves and gives hope. Nor must we be satisfied with staying in the pen of the 99 sheep if we want to follow him and to remain with him; we too must “go out” with him to seek the lost sheep, the one that has strayed the furthest. Be sure to remember: coming out of ourselves, just as Jesus, just as God came out of himself in Jesus and Jesus came out of himself for all of us.

Someone might say to me: “but Father, I don’t have time”, “I have so many things to do”, “it’s difficult”, “what can I do with my feebleness and my sins, with so many things?”. We are often satisfied with a few prayers, with a distracted and sporadic participation in Sunday Mass, with a few charitable acts; but we do not have the courage “to come out” to bring Christ to others. We are a bit like St Peter. As soon as Jesus speaks of his Passion, death and Resurrection, of the gift of himself, of love for all, the Apostle takes him aside and reproaches him. What Jesus says upsets his plans, seems unacceptable, threatens the security he had built for himself, his idea of the Messiah. And Jesus looks at his disciples and addresses to Peter what may possibly be the harshest words in the Gospels: “Get behind me Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of men” (Mk 8:33). God always thinks with mercy: do not forget this. God always thinks mercifully. He is the merciful Father! God thinks like the father waiting for the son and goes to meet him, he spots him coming when he is still far off....

What does this mean? That he went every day to see if his son was coming home: this is our merciful Father. It indicates that he was waiting for him with longing on the terrace of his house. God thinks like the Samaritan who did not pass by the unfortunate man, pitying him or looking at him from the other side of the road, but helped him without asking for anything in return; without asking whether he was a Jew, a pagan or a Samaritan, whether he was rich or poor: he asked for nothing. He went to help him: God is like this. God thinks like the shepherd who lays down his life in order to defend and save his sheep.

Holy Week is a time of grace which the Lord gives us to open the doors of our heart, of our life, of our parishes — what a pity so many parishes are closed! — of the movements, of the associations; and “to come out” in order to meet others, to make ourselves close, to bring them the light and joy of our faith. To come out always! And to do so with God’s love and tenderness, with respect and with patience, knowing that God takes our hands, our feet, our heart, and guides them and makes all our actions fruitful.

I hope that we all will live these days well, following the Lord courageously, carrying within us a ray of his love for all those we meet.




Pope Francis  03.04.20  Video Message to mark Holy Week 2020


Dear friends, good evening!
Pope Francis Hol Week 2020 Video Message


This evening I have the chance to enter your homes in a different way than usual. If you allow me, I would like to have a conversation with you for a few moments, in this time of difficulty and of suffering. I can imagine you in your families, living an unusual life to avoid contagion. I am thinking of the liveliness of children and young people, who cannot go out, attend school, live their lives. I have in my heart all the families, especially those who have a loved one who is sick or who have unfortunately experienced mourning due to the coronavirus or other causes. These days I often think about people who are alone, and for whom it is more difficult to face these moments. Above all I think of the elderly, who are very dear to me.

I cannot forget those who are sick with coronavirus, people who are in hospital. I am aware of the generosity of those who put themselves at risk for the treatment of this pandemic or to guarantee the essential services to society. So many heroes, every day, at every hour! I also remember how many are in financial straits and are worried about work and the future. A thought also goes out to prison inmates, whose pain is compounded by fear of the epidemic, for themselves and their loved ones; I think of the homeless, who do not have a home to protect them.

It is a difficult time for everyone. For many, very difficult. The Pope knows this and, with these words, he wants to tell everyone of his closeness and affection. Let us try, if we can, to make the best use of this time: let us be generous; let us help those in need in our neighbourhood; let us look out for the loneliest people, perhaps by telephone or social networks; let us pray to the Lord for those who are in difficulty in Italy and in the world. Even if we are isolated, thought and spirit can go far with the creativity of love. This is what we need today: the creativity of love. This is what is needed today: the creativity of love.

We will celebrate Holy Week in a truly unusual way, which manifests and sums up the message of the Gospel, that of God’s boundless love. And in the silence of our cities, the Easter Gospel will resound. The Apostle Paul says: “And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him Who died for them and was raised again” (2 Cor 5:15). In the risen Jesus, life conquered death. This Paschal faith nourishes our hope. I would like to share it with you this evening. It is the hope of a better time, in which we can be better, finally freed from evil and from this pandemic. It is a hope: hope does not disappoint; it is not an illusion, it is a hope.

Beside each other, in love and patience, we can prepare a better time in these days. Thank you for allowing me into your homes. Make a gesture of tenderness towards those who suffer, towards children, and towards the elderly. Tell them that the Pope is close and pray, that the Lord will soon deliver us all from evil. And you, pray for me. Have a good dinner. See you soon!



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.