Unity

Unity - Pope Francis          

https://sites.google.com/site/francishomilies/conflict/26.10.18.jpg

St. Paul from the solitude of his imprisonment was writing to the Ephesians a true "hymn to unity", recalling the "dignity of vocation". Paul’s solitude would accompany him until his death in Rome, because Christians were “too busy” in their "internal struggles". And before Paul, Jesus Himself “asked for the grace of unity from the Father for all of us."

Yet, today we are "used to breathing the air of
conflict". Every day, on the TV and in newspapers, we hear about conflicts and wars "one after the other", "without peace, without unity”. Agreements made to stop conflicts are ignored, thus the arms race and preparation for war and destruction go ahead.

Even
world institutions created with the best of intentions for peace and unity, fail to come to an agreement because of a veto here and an interest there ... While they are struggling to arrive at peace agreements, children have no food, no school, no education and hospitals because the war has destroyed everything.

There is a tendency to destruction, war and
disunity in us. It is the tendency that the devil, the enemy and destroyer of humanity sows in our hearts. The Apostle teaches us that the journey of unity is, so to say, clad or “armoured' with the bond of peace. Peace, he said, leads to unity.

We who are used to
insulting and shouting at each other, need to make peace and unity among us with gentleness and patience

Christians open your hearts and make peace in the world taking the path of the “three little things” - "
humility, gentleness and patience". Paul's advice is “bear with one another in love". It’s not easy as there is always a judgement, a condemnation which leads to separation and distances

When a
rift is created between members of the family, the devil is happy with the start of war . The advice is then to bear with one another because we always have an excuse to be annoyed and impatient because we are all sinners with defects. St. Paul, inspired by Jesus at the Last Supper who urged for “one body and one spirit”, thus urges us to “preserve the unity of spirit through the bond of peace".

The next step is to see the horizon of peace with God, just as Jesus made us see the horizon of peace with prayer: “Father, may they be one, as You and I are one'. In today's Gospel of Luke Jesus advises us to strike an
agreement with our adversary along the way. It’s good advice, because "it is not difficult to come to an agreement at the beginning of a conflict.

The advice of Jesus is to
settle the matter and make peace at the beginning, which calls for humility, gentleness and patience. One can build peace throughout the world with these little things, which are the attitudes of Jesus who is humble, meek and forgives everything.

Today we, the world, our families and our society need peace. I invite Christians to start putting into practice humility, gentleness and patience saying this is the path to making peace and consolidating unity.




Pope Francis   04.05.20   Holy Mass Casa Santa Marta (Domus Sanctae Marthae)      Acts 11: 1-18,      John 10: 11-18
Monday of the Fourth Week of Easter
Pope Francis  Everyone 04.05.20

When Peter went up to Jerusalem, the faithful reproached him (cf. Acts 11: 1-18). They reproached him for entering the house of uncircumcised men and of having eaten with them, with the pagans: they couldn't do that, it was a sin. The purity of the law did not allow this. But Peter had done it because it was the Spirit that brought him there. There is always in the Church – especially in the early Church, because it was not clear – this spirit of "we are the righteous, the others the sinners". This "us and them", "us and them", divisions: "We have the right position before God". Instead there are "the others", sometimes we say: "They are already the condemned" . And this is a disease of the Church, a disease that arises from ideologies or religious parties. 

At the time of Jesus, there were at least four religious parties: the Pharisees party, the party of the Sadducees, the party of Zealots and the party of the Essenes, and each interpreted the law according to the "idea" that it had. And this idea is a school that is outside of the law when it's a way of thinking, of feeling worldly you make yourself an interpreter of the law. They also reproached Jesus for entering the house of the tax collectors – who were sinners, according to them – and for eating with them, with sinners, because the purity of the law did not allow it; and he didn't wash his hands before lunch. There is always this reproach that makes division: this is important, and I would like to emphasize it.

There are ideas, positions that divide, to the point that division is more important than unity. My idea is more important than the Holy Spirit who guides us. There is an "emeritus" cardinal who lives here in the Vatican, a good pastor, and he said to his faithful: "But the Church is like a river, you know? Some are more on this side, some on the other side, but the important thing is that everyone is inside the river." This is the unity of the Church. No one outside, everyone inside. Then, with the peculiarities: this does not divide, it is not ideology, it is lawful. But why does the Church have this breadth of river? It's because the Lord wants it that way.

The Lord, in the Gospel, tells us: "I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also must I lead, and they will hear my voice and there will be one flock, one shepherd" (John 10:16). The Lord says, "I have sheep everywhere, and I am everyone's shepherd." This "everyone" in Jesus is very important. Let us think of the parable of the wedding feast (cf. Mt 22: 1-10), when the guests did not want to go there: one because he had bought a field, one had married; everyone gave their reason not to go. And the master became angry and said, "Go to the crossroads and bring everyone to the feast" (v. 9). All of them. Big and small, rich and poor, good and bad. Everyone. This "everyone" is a bit of the vision of the Lord who came for everyone and died for everyone. "But did he also die for that wretched person who made my life impossible?" He died for him, too. "And for that robber?": he died for him. For everyone. And also for people who do not believe in him or are of other religions: he died for everyone. That doesn't mean you have to proselytize: no. But he died for everyone, he justified everyone.

Here in Rome there is a lady, a good woman, a teacher, Professor Mara, who when there were difficulties with various things, among different parties, said: "But Christ is dead for everyone: let's just go ahead with it!". That constructive ability. We have only one Redeemer, one unity: Christ died for everyone. Instead the temptation ... Paul also suffered: "I am from Paul, I am from Apollo, I am of this, I am of the other ...". And let us think of us, fifty years ago, after the Council: the divisions that the Church suffered. "I am on this side, I think so, you do ...". Yes, it is permissible to think so, but in the unity of the Church, under Jesus the Shepherd.

Two things. The reproach of the faithful to Peter because he had entered the house of the pagans and Jesus who says: "I am the shepherd of all". I'm everyone's shepherd. And who says: "I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also must I lead, and they will hear my voice and there will be one flock" (cf. John 10:16). It is prayer for the unity of all men, because all men and women all have one Shepherd: Jesus.

May the Lord frees us from that psychology of division, from dividing, and help us to see this of Jesus, this great thing of Jesus, that in him we are all brothers and sisters and he is the Shepherd of everyone. That word, today: "Everyone, everyone!", to accompany us throughout the day.





Pope Francis   29.06.20  Holy Mass, St 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 29.06.20

On the feast of the two Apostles of this City, I would like to share with you two key words: unity and prophecy.

Unity. We celebrate together two very different individuals: Peter, a fisherman who spent his days amid boats and nets, and Paul, a learned Pharisee who taught in synagogues. When they went forth on mission, Peter spoke to Jews, and Paul to pagans. And when their paths crossed, they could argue heatedly, as Paul is unashamed to admit in one of his letters (cf. Gal 2:11). In short, they were two very different people, yet they saw one another as brothers, as happens in close-knit families where there may be frequent arguments but unfailing love. Yet the closeness that joined Peter and Paul did not come from natural inclinations, but from the Lord. He did not command us to like one another, but to love one another. He is the one who unites us, without making us all alike. He unites us in our differences.

Today’s first reading brings us to the source of this unity. It relates how the newly born Church was experiencing a moment of crisis: Herod was furious, a violent persecution had broken out, and the Apostle James had been killed. And now Peter had been arrested. The community seemed headless, everyone fearing for his life. Yet at that tragic moment no one ran away, no one thought about saving his own skin, no one abandoned the others, but all joined in prayer. From prayer they drew strength, from prayer came a unity more powerful than any threat. The text says that, “while Peter was kept in prison, the Church prayed fervently to God for him” (Acts 12:5). Unity is the fruit of prayer, for prayer allows the Holy Spirit to intervene, opening our hearts to hope, shortening distances and holding us together at times of difficulty.

Let us notice something else: at that dramatic moment, no one complained about Herod’s evil and his persecution. No one abused Herod – and we are so accustomed to abuse those who are in charge. It is pointless, even tedious, for Christians to waste their time complaining about the world, about society, about everything that is not right. Complaints change nothing. Let us remember that complaining is the second door that closes us off from the Holy Spirit, as I said on Pentecost Sunday. The first is narcissism, the second discouragement, the third pessimism. Narcissism makes you look at yourself constantly in a mirror; discouragement leads to complaining and pessimism to thinking everything is dark and bleak. These three attitudes close the door to the Holy Spirit. Those Christians did not cast blame; rather, they prayed. In that community, no one said: “If Peter had been more careful, we would not be in this situation”. No one. Humanly speaking, there were reasons to criticize Peter, but no one criticized him. They did not complain about Peter; they prayed for him. They did not talk about Peter behind his back; they talked to God. We today can ask: “Are we protecting our unity, our unity in the Church, with prayer? Are we praying for one another?” What would happen if we prayed more and complained less, if we had a more tranquil tongue? The same thing that happened to Peter in prison: now as then, so many closed doors would be opened, so many chains that bind would be broken. We would be amazed, like the maid who saw Peter at the gate and did not open it, but ran inside, astonished by the joy of seeing Peter (cf. Acts 12:10-17). Let us ask for the grace to be able to pray for one another. Saint Paul urged Christians to pray for everyone, especially those who govern (cf. 1 Tim 2:1-3). “But this governor is…”, and there are many adjectives. I will not mention them, because this is neither the time nor the place to mention adjectives that we hear directed against those who govern. Let God judge them; let us pray for those who govern! Let us pray: for they need prayer. This is a task that the Lord has entrusted to us. Are we carrying it out? Or do we simply talk, abuse and do nothing? God expects that when we pray we will also be mindful of those who do not think as we do, those who have slammed the door in our face, those whom we find it hard to forgive. Only prayer unlocks chains, as it did for Peter; only prayer paves the way to unity.

Today we bless the pallia to be bestowed on the Dean of the College of Cardinals and the Metropolitan Archbishops named in the last year. The pallium is a sign of the unity between the sheep and the Shepherd who, like Jesus, carries the sheep on his shoulders, so as never to be separated from it. Today too, in accordance with a fine tradition, we are united in a particular way with the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. Peter and Andrew were brothers, and, whenever possible, we exchange fraternal visits on our respective feast days. We do so not only out of courtesy, but as a means of journeying together towards the goal that the Lord points out to us: that of full unity. We could not do so today because of the difficulty of travel due to the coronavirus, but when I went to venerate the remains of Peter, in my heart I felt my beloved brother Bartholomew. They are here, with us.

The second word is prophecy. Unity and prophecy. The Apostles were challenged by Jesus. Peter heard Jesus’ question: “Who do you say I am?” (cf. Mt 16:15). At that moment he realized that the Lord was not interested in what others thought, but in Peter’s personal decision to follow him. Paul’s life changed after a similar challenge from Jesus: “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4). The Lord shook Paul to the core: more than just knocking him to the ground on the road to Damascus, he shattered Paul’s illusion of being respectably religious. As a result, the proud Saul turned into Paul, a name that means “small”. These challenges and reversals are followed by prophecies: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church” (Mt 16:18); and, for Paul: “He is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel” (Acts 9:15). Prophecy is born whenever we allow ourselves to be challenged by God, not when we are concerned to keep everything quiet and under control. Prophecy is not born from my thoughts, from my closed heart. It is born if we allow ourselves to be challenged by God. When the Gospel overturns certainties, prophecy arises. Only someone who is open to God’s surprises can become a prophet. And there they are: Peter and Paul, prophets who look to the future. Peter is the first to proclaim that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16). Paul, who considers his impending death: “From now on there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord will award to me” (2 Tim 4:8).

Today we need prophecy, but real prophecy: not fast talkers who promise the impossible, but testimonies that the Gospel is possible. What is needed are not miraculous shows. It makes me sad when I hear someone say, “We want a prophetic Church”. All right. But what are you doing, so that the Church can be prophetic? We need lives that show the miracle of God’s love. Not forcefulness, but forthrightness. Not palaver, but prayer. Not speeches, but service. Do you want a prophetic Church? Then start serving and be quiet. Not theory, but testimony. We are not to become rich, but rather to love the poor. We are not to save up for ourselves, but to spend ourselves for others. To seek not the approval of this world, of being comfortable with everyone - here we say: “being comfortable with God and the devil”, being comfortable with everyone -; no, this is not prophecy. We need the joy of the world to come. Not better pastoral plans that seem to have their own self-contained efficiency, as if they were sacraments; efficient pastoral plans, no. We need pastors who offer their lives: lovers of God. That is how Peter and Paul preached Jesus, as men in love with God. At his crucifixion, Peter did not think about himself but about his Lord, and, considering himself unworthy of dying like Jesus, asked to be crucified upside down. Before his beheading, Paul thought only of offering his life; he wrote that he wanted to be “poured out like a libation” (2 Tim 4:6). That was prophecy. Not words. That was prophecy, the prophecy that changed history.

Dear brothers and sisters, Jesus prophesied to Peter: “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church”. There is a similar prophecy for us too. It is found in the last book of the Bible, where Jesus promises his faithful witnesses “a white stone, on which a new name is written” (Rev 2:17). Just as the Lord turned Simon into Peter, so he is calling each one of us, in order to make us living stones with which to build a renewed Church and a renewed humanity. There are always those who destroy unity and stifle prophecy, yet the Lord believes in us and he asks you: “Do you want to be a builder of unity? Do you want to be a prophet of my heaven on earth?” Brothers and sisters, let us be challenged by Jesus, and find the courage to say to him: “Yes, I do!”