“I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame” (Job 29:15)

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MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS

FOR THE 23rd WORLD DAY OF THE SICK 2015

Sapientia Cordis

“I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame”

(Job 29:15)

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On this, the twenty-third World Day of the Sick, begun by Saint John Paul II, I turn to all of you who are burdened by illness and are united in various ways to the flesh of the suffering Christ, as well as to you, professionals and volunteers in the field of health care.

This year’s theme invites us to reflect on a phrase from the Book of Job: “I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame” (Job 29:15). I would like to consider this phrase from the perspective of “sapientia cordis” – the wisdom of the heart.

1. This “wisdom” is no theoretical, abstract knowledge, the product of reasoning. Rather, it is, as Saint James describes it in his Letter, “pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity” (3:17). It is a way of seeing things infused by the Holy Spirit in the minds and the hearts of those who are sensitive to the sufferings of their brothers and sisters and who can see in them the image of God. So let us take up the prayer of the Psalmist: “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Ps 90:12). This “sapientia cordis”, which is a gift of God, is a compendium of the fruits of the World Day of the Sick.

2. Wisdom of the heart means serving our brothers and sisters. Job’s words: “I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame”, point to the service which this just man, who enjoyed a certain authority and a position of importance amongst the elders of his city, offered to those in need. His moral grandeur found expression in the help he gave to the poor who sought his help and in his care for orphans and widows (Job 29:12-13).

Today too, how many Christians show, not by their words but by lives rooted in a genuine faith, that they are “eyes to the blind” and “feet to the lame”! They are close to the sick in need of constant care and help in washing, dressing and eating. This service, especially when it is protracted, can become tiring and burdensome. It is relatively easy to help someone for a few days but it is difficult to look after a person for months or even years, in some cases when he or she is no longer capable of expressing gratitude. And yet, what a great path of sanctification this is! In those difficult moments we can rely in a special way on the closeness of the Lord, and we become a special means of support for the Church’s mission.

3. Wisdom of the heart means being with our brothers and sisters. Time spent with the sick is holy time. It is a way of praising God who conforms us to the image of his Son, who “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mt 20:28). Jesus himself said: “I am among you as one who serves” (Lk 22:27).

With lively faith let us ask the Holy Spirit to grant us the grace to appreciate the value of our often unspoken willingness to spend time with these sisters and brothers who, thanks to our closeness and affection, feel more loved and comforted. How great a lie, on the other hand, lurks behind certain phrases which so insist on the importance of “quality of life” that they make people think that lives affected by grave illness are not worth living!

4. Wisdom of the heart means going forth from ourselves towards our brothers and sisters. Occasionally our world forgets the special value of time spent at the bedside of the sick, since we are in such a rush; caught up as we are in a frenzy of doing, of producing, we forget about giving ourselves freely, taking care of others, being responsible for others. Behind this attitude there is often a lukewarm faith which has forgotten the Lord’s words: “You did it unto me’ (Mt 25:40).

For this reason, I would like once again to stress “the absolute priority of ‘going forth from ourselves toward our brothers and sisters’ as one of the two great commandments which ground every moral norm and as the clearest sign for discerning spiritual growth in response to God’s completely free gift” (Evangelii Gaudium, 179). The missionary nature of the Church is the wellspring of an “effective charity and a compassion which understands, assists and promotes” (ibid).

5. Wisdom of the heart means showing solidarity with our brothers and sisters while not judging them. Charity takes time. Time to care for the sick and time to visit them. Time to be at their side like Job’s friends: “And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great” (Job 2:13). Yet Job’s friends harboured a judgement against him: they thought that Job’s misfortune was a punishment from God for his sins. True charity is a sharing which does not judge, which does not demand the conversion of others; it is free of that false humility which, deep down, seeks praise and is self-satisfied about whatever good it does.

Job’s experience of suffering finds its genuine response only in the cross of Jesus, the supreme act of God’s solidarity with us, completely free and abounding in mercy. This response of love to the drama of human pain, especially innocent suffering, remains for ever impressed on the body of the risen Christ; his glorious wounds are a scandal for faith but also the proof of faith (cf. Homily for the Canonization of John XXIII and John Paul II, 27 April 2014).

Even when illness, loneliness and inability make it hard for us to reach out to others, the experience of suffering can become a privileged means of transmitting grace and a source for gaining and growing in sapientia cordis. We come to understand how Job, at the end of his experience, could say to God: “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you” (42:5). People immersed in the mystery of suffering and pain, when they accept these in faith, can themselves become living witnesses of a faith capable of embracing suffering, even without being able to understand its full meaning.

6. I entrust this World Day of the Sick to the maternal protection of Mary, who conceived and gave birth to Wisdom incarnate: Jesus Christ, our Lord.

O Mary, Seat of Wisdom, intercede as our Mother for all the sick and for those who care for them! Grant that, through our service of our suffering neighbours, and through the experience of suffering itself, we may receive and cultivate true wisdom of heart!

With this prayer for all of you, I impart my Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 3 December 2014

Memorial of Saint Francis Xavier

 

Pope Francis and the Annunciation to Mary

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Pope Francis, in Evangelii Gaudium, “The Joy of the Gospel”, emphasises that it is Mary who “made possible the missionary outburst that took place at Pentecost”. He notes, “She is the Mother of the Church which evangelises, and without her we could never truly understand the spirit of the new evangelisation”. True evangelisation flows from Mary and is placed under her protection. As Pope Francis says, “There is a Marian ‘style’ to the Church’s work of evangelisation”. The consecration of the School to Mary, therefore, is placed at the very heart of its life and work.
The Annunciation lies at the centre of this work of evangelisation, of the transmission of the Good News, since it was at this moment that the Good News was proclaimed in its fullness. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it, “For the first time in the plan of salvation and because his Spirit had prepared her, the Father found the dwelling-place where his Son and his Spirit could dwell among men.” At the Incarnation we have the full Revelation of God in history in the person of Mary, prepared and made ready for this. Announced by the angelic messenger of the Lord, this Good News was received by one who was full of grace, and becoming incarnate the Person of the eternal Word took flesh for the salvation of the world.
Our Lady Mary is unique, as the God-bearer, the Theotokos; but as one of the Fathers of the Church reminds us, “every Christian is also believed to be a bride of God’s word, a mother of Christ”, receiving the loving News of the Father so that Christ can bring his redemptive grace into every situation and moment.
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The CDF has done something about Medjugorje – finally!

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Much confusion could have been avoided

The latest news about Medjugorje has caught my attention. Archbishop Müller, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has asked the US Papal Nuncio to instruct clergy and laity not to participate in any meetings, conferences or public celebrations in which the authenticity of the apparitions are taken for granted. It seems that the proposed visit of one of the “seers”, Ivan Dragicevic, is the impetus behind the intervention of the CDF.
Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the US Papal Nuncio, has written to all the US bishops: “His Excellency wishes to inform the Bishops that one of the so-called visionaries of Medjugorje, Mr Ivan Dragicevic, is scheduled to appear at certain parishes around the country, during which time he will make presentations regarding the phenomenon of Medjugorje. It is anticipated, moreover, that Mr Dragicevic will be receiving “apparitions” during these scheduled appearances.”
The instruction continues: “As you are well aware, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is in the process of investigating certain doctrinal and disciplinary aspects of the phenomenon of Medjugorje. For this reason, the Congregation has affirmed that, with regard to the credibility of the “apparitions” in question, all should accept the declaration, dated 10 April 1991, from the Bishops of the former Republic of Yugoslavia, which asserts, “On the basis of the research that has been done, it is not possible to state that there were apparitions or supernatural revelations.”

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The Papal Nuncio concludes, “In order, therefore, to avoid scandal and confusion, Archbishop Muller asks that the Bishops be informed of this matter as soon as possible.”
I will only make a few comments about this because there has been an enormous amount written about Medjugorje over the years and I don’t want to add to it.
I think it is a pity that the CDF has waited so long to send this directive, which might have avoided much confusion and scandal had it been issued years ago. I don’t say it is a case of closing the gate after the horse has bolted; just that the CDF has rather dragged its feet in the matter. The careful wording of the Papal Nuncio’s letter is also significant, with the phrase “so-called visionaries” and the inverted commas around the word “apparitions.” Readers will make what they will of the subtext here.
Vatican Insider reports the Holy Father’s homily during Mass at St Martha’s on November 14, which also has relevance to this subject: discussing the reading about the Spirit of Wisdom, Pope Francis commented, “Curiosity …leads us to say “But I know a visionary who receives letters from Our Lady, messages from Our Lady.” He added in the homely imagery for which he is noted, “But look, Our Lady… is not a postmistress, sending messages every day.” He warned the faithful not to seek “strange things” or “novelties with worldly curiosity.”
The article in Christian Order referred to above cites many examples of recent alleged “apparitions” around the world, most of which I had never heard of. One of them refers to the “Divine Innocence” promulgated by Mrs Patricia Menenez in Surbiton in the 1980s, which was investigated and rejected at the time by the then Archbishop of Southwark, Michael Bowen. I had a brief brush with this cult in the 1990s: I was editing a small Catholic quarterly newspaper and cult members were extremely keen for me to advertise their supernatural “messages”, devotions, processions and so on. I wrote back very politely, saying it was my editorial policy always to wait until Rome had given its approval to such phenomena, as in the case of shrines like Lourdes and Fatima.
To my surprise, I received a very angry letter in reply, criticising my editorial decision in no uncertain terms. It was the anger and arrogance of this reply that convinced me the events at Surbiton were not of supernatural origin.

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Taken from: http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/commentandblogs/2013/11/15/the-cdf-has-done-something-about-medjugorje-finally/

Pope Francis declares Holy Year for Mercy

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Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

by Elise Harris

.- During his homily for a Lenten penitential service, Pope Francis announced an extraordinary Jubilee to start at the end of the year, which will be dedicated to a theme close to the pontiff’s heart: mercy.

“Dear brothers and sisters, I have thought about how the Church can make clear its mission of being a witness of mercy,” the Pope told attendees of his March 13 penitential liturgy in St. Peter’s Basilica.

“It’s a journey that starts with a spiritual conversion. For this reason I have decided to declare an Extraordinary Jubilee that has the mercy of God at its center. It will be a Holy Year of Mercy.”

The biblical passage for the Holy Year’s theme is from Luke Chapter 6 verse 36, in which Jesus tells his disciples, “Be merciful as your Father is merciful.”

“I am convinced that the whole Church will be able to find in this Jubilee the joy of rediscovering and making fruitful the mercy of God, with which we are all called to give consolation to every man and every woman of our time,” Francis said, and entrusted the Holy Year to Mary, Mother of Mercy.

Pope Francis made his announcement during a penitential liturgy opening the second “24 Hours for the Lord” event, which he originally called for in Lent of last year.

An initiative of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, the event is designed to widen access to the Sacrament of Confession by having parishes open their doors for an extended period of time with priests available to those who come.

Francis’ announcement of the Extraordinary Jubilee for mercy not only falls on the opening of the 24 hours for the Lord event, which follows the theme “God rich in mercy,” but also the two year anniversary of his pontificate.

The Jubilee, also called a Holy Year, will open this year on Dec. 8 – the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception – and will close Nov. 20, 2016 with the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.

It will also coincide with the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council in 1965. The Jubilee will be organized by the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization.

Sunday readings during Ordinary Time for the Holy Year will be taken from the Gospel of Luke, as he is often referred to as “the evangelist of mercy.” Among the well-known parables of mercy present in Luke’s Gospel are those of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the merciful father.

The official announcement of the Jubilee will take place on Divine Mercy Sunday, the Sunday after Easter, with a public proclamation in front of the Holy Door of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Each of the four papal basilicas in Rome has a holy door, which are normally sealed shut from the inside so that they cannot be opened. The doors are only opened during Jubilee years so that pilgrims can enter through them in order to gain the plenary indulgence that is connected with the Jubilee.

The rite of the opening of the Holy Door is intended to symbolically illustrate the idea that the Church’s faithful are offered an “extraordinary path” toward salvation during the time of Jubilee.

After the Holy Door opens in St. Peter’s Basilica, those of the other three Roman basilicas, St. John Lateran, St. Paul Outside the Walls and St. Mary Major, will be opened.

In ancient Hebrew tradition, the Jubilee Year was celebrated every 50 years and was intended to restore equality among the children of Israel by providing opportunities for families who had lost their property and even their personal freedom to regain them.

It was also a year in which the wealthy were reminded that their Israelite slaves would again become their equals and regain their rights.

The Catholic tradition of practicing the Holy Year began with Pope Boniface VIII in 1300, and since 1475 an Ordinary Jubilee has been celebrated every 25 years in order to allow each generation to experience at least one during their lifetime.

However, as is the case with Pope Francis’ 2016 Holy Year of Mercy, an extraordinary Jubilee can be called for a special occasion or for an event that has a particular importance.

Until now there have only been 26 ordinary Jubilee celebrations, the last of which was the Jubilee of 2000.

The Holy Year is traditionally a year of forgiveness of sins and also the punishment merited by one’s sins. It is also a year for reconciliation between enemies, conversion and receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

The first extraordinary Jubilee was called in 16th century, and the most recent have been in 1933, when Pope Pius XI called one to celebrate 1900 years of Redemption, and in 1983 when St. John Paul II proclaimed one to honor 1950 years of Redemption.

Mercy is a theme that is dear to Francis, and is the central topic of his episcopal motto “miserando atque eligendo,” which he chose when ordained a bishop in 1992.

One translation of the motto, taken from a homily given by St. Bede on Jesus’ calling of St. Matthew, is “with eyes of mercy.”

In his first Angelus address as the Bishop of Rome, March 17, 2013, Francis spoke of “Feeling mercy…this word changes everything.”

Mercy, he said then, “is the best thing we can feel: it changes the world. A little mercy makes the world less cold and more just. We need to understand properly this mercy of God, this merciful Father who is so patient.”

In the English version of his first Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium,” the word “mercy” appears 32 times.

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Taken from: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/pope-francis-declares-2016-to-be-a-jubilee-for-mercy-84325/

Pope Francis: Let us allow Jesus to cleanse our hearts

Pope Francis greets the faithful during the Sunday Angelus. Referring to the day’s Gospel, the Holy Father called on Christians to allow Jesus to cleanse our hearts. – AP

08/03/2015 13:13
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Sunday based his Angelus address on the Gospel account of Jesus cleansing the Temple. Jesus’ prophetic words and actions, the Pope said, which refer to His death and resurrection, “are fully understood in the light of His Pasch.” Jesus Christ Himself, in His Resurrection, becomes the meeting place between God and man.Listen to Christopher Wells report: 

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During Lent, the Pope continued, we prepare for Easter, when we will renew our baptismal promises. The Holy Father called on each of us to follow Jesus, so that people might encounter God in us and in our witness. But this leads us to ask ourselves if we allow the Lord “to ‘cleanse’ our hearts and to drive out the idols, those attitudes of cupidity, jealousy, worldliness, envy, hatred, those habits of gossiping and tearing down others.” Jesus, the Pope said, cleanses our hearts not with a whip, as He cleansed the Temple, but with tenderness, mercy, and love.
“Every Eucharist that we celebrate with faith makes us grow as a living temple of the Lord,” the Pope said, “thanks to the communion with His crucified and risen Body… Let us allow Him to enter into our lives, into our families, into our hearts.”
Below, please find the complete text of the Pope’s Angelus address for Sunday, 8 March 2015:
Dear brothers and sisters,
Today’s Gospel presents the episode of the of the expulsion of the merchants from the temple (Jn 2:13-25). Jesus “made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen” (Jn 2:15), the money, everything. Such a gesture gave rise to strong impressions in the people and in the disciples. It clearly appeared as a prophetic gesture, so much so that some of those present asked Jesus: “[But] what sign can you show us for doing this?” (v. 18), who are you to do these things? Show us a sign that you have authority to do them. They are seeking a divine sign, a prodigy that would certify Jesus as being sent by God. And He responded: “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” (v. 19). They replied: “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and you will raise it up in three days?” (v. 20). They had not understood that the Lord was referring to the living temple of His body, that would be destroyed in the death on the Cross, but would be raised on the third day. For this, in “three days.” “When He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this, and they came to believe the Scripture and the word Jesus had spoken” (v. 22).
In effect, this gesture of Jesus and His prophetic message are fully understood in the light of His Pasch. We have here, according to the evangelist John, the first proclamation of the death and resurrection of Christ: His body, destroyed on the Cross by the violence of sin, will become in the Resurrection the universal meeting place between God and men. And the Risen Christ is Himself the universal meeting place – for everyone! – between God and men. For this reason, His humanity is the true temple where God is revealed, speaks, is encountered; and the true worshippers, the true worshippers of God are not only the guardians of the material temple, the keepers of power and of religious knowledge, [but] they are those who worship God “in spirit and truth” (Jn 4:23).
In this time of Lent we are preparing for the celebration of Easter, when we will renew the promises of our Baptism. Let us travel in the world as Jesus did, and let us make our whole existence a sign of our love for our brothers, especially the weakest and poorest, let us build for God a temple of our lives. And so we make it “encounterable” for those who we find along our journey. If we are witnesses of this living Christ, so many people will encounter Jesus in us, in our witness. But, we ask – and each one of us can ask ourselves – does the Lord feel at home in my life? Do we allow Him to “cleanse” our hearts and to drive out the idols, those attitudes of cupidity, jealousy, worldliness, envy, hatred, those habits of gossiping and tearing down others. Do I allow Him to cleanse all the behaviours that are against God, against our neighbour, and against ourselves, as we heard today in the first Reading? Each one can answer for himself, in the silence of his heart: “Do I allow Jesus to make my heart a little cleaner?” “Oh Father, I fear the rod!” But Jesus never strikes. Jesus cleanses with tenderness, with mercy, with love. Mercy is the His way of cleansing. Let us, each of us, let us allow the Lord to enter with His mercy – not with the whip, no, with His mercy – to cleanse our hearts. The whip of Jesus with us is His mercy. Let us open to Him the gates so that He would make us a little cleaner.
Every Eucharist that we celebrate with faith makes us grow as a living temple of the Lord, thanks to the communion with His crucified and risen Body. Jesus recognizes that which is in each of us, and knows well our most ardent desires: that of being inhabited by Him, only by Him. Let us allow Him to enter into our lives, into our families, into our hearts. May Mary most holy, the privileged dwelling place of the Son of God, accompany us and sustain us on the Lenten journey, so that we might be able to rediscover the beauty of the encounter with Christ, the only One Who frees us and saves us.

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Taken from: http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/03/08/pope_francis_let_us_allow_jesus