Pope Francis

07.05.20 Holy Mass Casa Santa Marta (Domus Sanctae Marthae)

Thursday of the Fourth Week of Easter

Psalm 89: 2-3, 21-22, 25,27

Acts 13: 13-25

Yesterday I received a letter from a group of artists: they thanked us for our prayer for them. I would like to ask the Lord to bless them because artists make us understand what beauty is and without beauty the Gospel cannot be understood. Let's pray again for the artists.

When Paul is invited to speak at the synagogue in Antioch, in Pisidia, to explain this new doctrine, that is to explain Jesus, to proclaim Jesus, Paul begins by talking about the history of salvation (Acts 13: 13-25). Paul got up and began: "The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors and exalted the people during their sojourn in the land of Egypt" ( 13: 17). All of salvation, the history of salvation. So did Stephen before his martyrdom ( Acts 7: 1-54) and Paul another time. So does the author of the Letter to the Hebrews, when he tells the story of Abraham and all of our fore-fathers ( Heb 11: 1-39). We sang the same thing today, we sang: "Forever I will sing the goodness of the Lord, through all generations my mouth shall proclaim your faithfulness" (Psalm 89: 2). We sang David's story: "I have found David, my servant" (89: 21). So do Matthew ( Mt 1: 1-14) and Luke (Luke 3: 23-38): when they begin to talk about Jesus, they start with the genealogy of Jesus.

What is before Jesus? There's a history. A story of grace, a story of election, a story of promise. The Lord chose Abraham and went with his people. At the beginning of Mass, in the antiphon, we said, "When you advanced, Lord, before your people and you opened your path and walked beside your people, close to your people." There is a history of God with his people. And that's why when Paul is asked to explain why faith in Jesus Christ he does not begin with Jesus Christ: he begins with history. Christianity is a doctrine, yes, but not only. It is not only the things that we believe, it is a history that leads to this doctrine that is the promise of God, the covenant of God, being chosen by God.

Christianity is not just an ethic. Yes, it is true, it has moral principles, but one is not a Christian only with an ethical vision. It's more than that.

Christianity is not an elite of people chosen for the truth. This elitist sense that then goes on in the Church, doesn't it? For example, I am of that institution, I belong to this movement that is better than yours, to this, to that other... It's a sense of elitism. No, Christianity is not this: Christianity belongs to a people, to a people freely chosen by God . If we do not have this awareness of belonging to a people, we will be ideological Christians, with a small doctrine of affirmation of truth, with ethics, with morality – it is fine – or with an elite. We feel part of a group chosen by God – Christians – and others will go to hell or if they are saved it is by God's mercy, but they are the discarded. And so on. If we do not have an awareness of belonging to a people, we are not true Christians.

This is why Paul explains Jesus from the beginning, from belonging to a people. And so often, so often, we fall into these partialities, whether dogmatic, moral or elitist, don't we? The sense of the elite is what hurts us so much and we lose that sense of belonging to the holy faithful people of God, whom God chose in Abraham and promised, the great promise, Jesus, and made him go with hope and made a covenant with him. Awareness of a people.

Something that always strikes me; is that passage of Deuteronomy, I think it is Chapter 26, when it says: "Once a year you will go to present the offerings, the first fruits, to the Lord, and when your son asks you, 'But dad why are you doing this?', you are not to say to him that God commanded us, no: we were a people, we were like this and the Lord freed us...'" ( Dt 26: 1-11). Tell the story, as Paul did here. Transmit the history of our salvation. The Lord in Deuteronomy himself advises: "When you arrive in the land that you have not conquered, that I have conquered, and you eat the fruit that you have not planted and you inhabit the houses that you have not built, when you give the first fruits recite the famous creed that's in Deuteronomy: "My father was a wandering Aramean, who went down to Egypt. He was there for 400 years, then the Lord freed him, and brought him forward." They sang the history, the memory of the people, of being a people.

And in this story of the people of God, until we get to Jesus Christ, there were saints, sinners and many ordinary people, good, with virtues and sins, but everyone. The famous "crowd" that followed Jesus, who had the sense of belonging to a people. A self-proclaimed Christian who does not have this sense is not a true Christian; he's a little particular and feels justified without the people. Belonging to a people, to have the memory of God's people. And this is taught by Paul, Stephen, another time Paul, the apostles. And the advice of the author of the Letter to the Hebrews: "Remember your ancestors" ( Heb 11:2), that is, those who preceded us on this path of salvation.

If someone asked me, "What is the deviation of Christians today and always for you? What would be the most dangerous deviation of Christians for you?", I would say without doubt: the lack of memory of belonging to a people. When this is missing comes dogmatism, moralism, ethicisms, elitist movements. The people are missing. A sinful people, always, we all are, but who are not wrong in general, who have the sense of being a chosen people, who walk behind a promise and who has made a covenant that we may not fulfil, but which we know.

Let us ask the Lord for this awareness of the people, which Our Lady beautifully sang in her Magnificat (Luke 1: 46-56), that Zachariah sang so beautifully in his Benedictus (cf. Luke 1: 67-79), hymns that we sing every day, in the morning and evening. Awareness of the people: we are the holy faithful people of God who, as the Vatican Councils say, the first and then the second, in its totality with the sense of faith is infallible in this way of believing.