Please find below the full text of Pope Francis’ message for Lent:
“I desire mercy, and not sacrifice” (Mt 9:13).
The works of mercy on the road of the Jubilee
“I desire mercy, and not sacrifice” (Mt 9:13).
The works of mercy on the road of the Jubilee
Pope Francis meets with people involved in the publishing of “The Name of God Is Mercy” at the Domus Sanctae Marthae at the Vatican Jan. 11. The book features an interview the pope did with Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano, handout)
A book on mercy might be expected to be a warm bath in kindliness, all sweetness and light, but Pope Francis, in “The Name of God Is Mercy,” offers a tough-minded reflection on an urgently needed public virtue, together with firm, if kindly, pushback against his critics.
(Vatican Radio) In his homily at Mass celebrating the solemnity of the Epiphany, Pope Francis said the Church is called to be a missionary Church and announcing Christ is not a profession and nor is it about proselytism. He said the Church cannot delude herself that she shines with her own light but instead draws her brightness from the light of Christ.
Please find below a translation in English of Pope Francis’ prepared remarks for his homily at the Mass in St Peter’s Basilica celebrating the solemnity of the Epiphany:
The words of the Prophet Isaiah – addressed to the Holy City of Jerusalem – are also meant for us. They call us to go forth, to leave behind all that keeps us self-enclosed, to go out from ourselves and to recognize the splendour of the light which illumines our lives: “Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you” (60:1). That “light” is the glory of the Lord. The Church cannot delude herself into thinking that she shines with her own light. Saint Ambrose expresses this nicely by presenting the moon as a metaphor for the Church: “The moon is in fact the Church… [she] shines not with her own light, but with the light of Christ. She draws her brightness from the Sun of Justice, and so she can say: ‘It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me’” (Hexaemeron, IV, 8, 32). Christ is the true light shining in the darkness. To the extent that the Church remains anchored in him, to the extent that she lets herself be illumined by him, she is able to bring light into the lives of individuals and peoples. For this reason the Fathers of the Church saw in her the mysterium lunae.
We need this light from on high if we are to respond in a way worthy of the vocation we have received. To proclaim the Gospel of Christ is not simply one option among many, nor is it a profession. For the Church, to be missionary does not mean to proselytize: for the Church to be missionary means to give expression to her very nature, which is to receive God’s light and then to reflect it. There is no other way. Mission is her vocation. How many people look to us for this missionary commitment, because they need Christ. They need to know the face of the Father.
The Magi mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew are a living witness to the fact that the seeds of truth are present everywhere, for they are the gift of the Creator, who calls all people to acknowledge him as good and faithful Father. The Magi represent the men and woman throughout the world who are welcomed into the house of God. Before Jesus, all divisions of race, language and culture disappear: in that Child, all humanity discovers its unity. The Church has the task of seeing and showing ever more clearly the desire for God which is present in the heart of every man and woman. Like the Magi, countless people, in our own day, have a “restless heart” which continues to seek without finding sure answers. They too are looking for a star to show them the path to Bethlehem.
How many stars there are in the sky! And yet the Magi followed a new and different star, which for them shone all the more brightly. They had long peered into the great book of the heavens, seeking an answer to their questions, and at long last the light appeared. That star changed them. It made them leave their daily concerns behind and set out immediately on a journey. They listened to a voice deep within, which led them to follow that light. The star guided them, until they found the King of the Jews in a humble dwelling in Bethlehem.
All this has something to say to us today. We do well to repeat the question asked by the Magi: “Where is the child who has been born the King of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage” (Mt 2:2). We are impelled, especially in an age like our own, to seek the signs which God offers us, realizing that great effort is needed to interpret them and thus to understand his will. We are challenged to go to Bethlehem, to find the Child and his Mother. Let us follow the light which God offers us! The light which streams from the face of Christ, full of mercy and fidelity. And once we have found him, let us worship him with all our heart, and present him with our gifts: our freedom, our understanding and our love. Let us recognize that true wisdom lies concealed in the face of this Child. It is here, in the simplicity of Bethlehem, that the life of the Church is summed up. For here is the wellspring of that light which draws to itself every individual and guides the journey of the peoples along the path of peace.
(from Vatican Radio)
By John L. Allen Jr.
ROME — Because Pope Benedict XVI was seen as a man of tradition, it was often easy to miss the innovative aspects of his papacy. In equal-and-opposite fashion, because Pope Francis is seen as a maverick, it’s tempting to overlook the various ways he stands in continuity with his predecessors.
Yet Francis’ signature initiative — probably the thing he would tell you he’s been building toward from the beginning, his Holy Year of Mercy — has at its core a figure straight out of the St. John Paul II playbook.
In fact, there’s a woman behind the pontiff’s jubilee: St. Faustina Kowalska, the Polish nun who launched the worldwide Divine Mercy devotion.
“May she, who was called to enter the depths of divine mercy, intercede for us and obtain for us the grace of living and walking always according to the mercy of God and with an unwavering trust in his love,” he wrote.
2. Programmatic line
Looking back, it seems clear that the programmatic line for Francis’ jubilee came during his first airborne news conference returning from a trip to Brazil in July 2013.
Although he was asked specifically about Communion for the divorced and remarried, he gave a broad reply about the importance of mercy. He said he believes the present era is a “kairos” of mercy, using an evocative Greek New Testament term that means a privileged moment in God’s plan of salvation.
In the next breath, Francis cited John Paul II and Faustina.
“But John Paul II had the first intuition of this,” he said, “when he began with Faustina Kowalska, the Divine Mercy …. He had intuited that this was a need in our time.”
3. “Ocean of Mercy”
In his homily for this year’s New Year’s Day Mass, marking his first public utterance of 2016, Francis argued that alongside a “torrent of misery” in the contemporary world, there is also an oft-overlooked “ocean of mercy.”
Though he didn’t explicitly cite Faustina, he easily could have. “Ocean of mercy” is one of her signature phrases, appearing in her diary a robust 16 times.
Here’s a classic for-instance, in this case from one of her visions of Jesus: “I have revealed to you the whole ocean of my mercy,” she reports Jesus saying. “I seek and desire souls like yours, but they are few.”
In another place, Faustina writes that “during Holy Mass, I was given knowledge of the heart of Jesus and of the nature of the fire of love with which he burns for us … he is an ocean of mercy.”
4. Poland trip
At least in terms of crowd size and the magnitude of the event, the highlight of Pope Francis’ jubilee year isn’t likely to come in Rome. Instead it’s likely to be in Krakow in late July, when Francis travels there to lead the Church’s World Youth Day.
Obviously, the legacy of John Paul II and Faustina will be front-and-center throughout that trip.
To make sure no one misses the point, Francis signed off on making John Paul II and Faustina the co-patrons of World Youth Day, referring to them both as “apostles of divine mercy.” The outing shapes as an homage by Francis to Faustina and the pope who canonized her, and one can expect him to reflect on the Divine Mercy devotion at length.
5. The “misericordina”
On Nov. 17, 2013, Francis used his typical Sunday Angelus address to do something more customary in TV infomercials: He hawked a prescription drug, even having people hand out samples in St. Peter’s Square.
Only the “drug,” in this case, wasn’t actually from a pharmacy, even though it was made up to look that way. Instead it was a small packet containing a rosary, the Divine Mercy image with the motto “Jesus, I trust in you,” and instructions for use. Italians call it the misericordina, a play on the word for mercy.
“It’s a spiritual medicine,” the pope told the crowd that day. “Don’t forget to take it, because it’s good for you, it’s good for your heart, your soul, and your whole life.”
6. Roman priests
In March 2014, Francis held a session with priests of Rome in the Vatican’s Paul VI audience hall, saying he wanted to devote it to the theme of mercy. He spoke at length about John Paul II and Faustina.
“In his homily for the canonization, which took place in 2000, John Paul II emphasized that the message of Jesus Christ to Sister Faustina is located, in time, between the two World Wars and is intimately tied to the history of the 20th century,” Francis said, going on to quote several passages from the homily.
In a key line, Francis said, “Today we forget everything far too quickly … but we cannot forget the great content, the great intuitions and gifts that have been left to the People of God. And Divine Mercy is one of these.”
In retrospect, it seems a clear hint that Francis understands his jubilee of mercy as an extension of that “intuition and gift.”
7. Francis in Cuba
When Pope Francis traveled to Cuba just before heading to the United States last September, he chose “messenger of mercy” as the motto for the outing, making it something of a preview of his jubilee.
He said Mass in Havana’s Revolution Square on Sept. 20, and commentators noted the irony that alongside the towering images of Che Guevara and José Martí that dominate the space, there was also a large image of Jesus that was put up for the day.
What was less commented upon, however, was the nature of that depiction: It was the Divine Mercy image, with the motto “Jesus, I trust in you” in Spanish.
An earthier brand of mercy
Granted, the approach Francis takes to the theme of mercy is not simply a photocopy of Faustina’s.
Hers was a highly spiritual version of mercy, focused on compassion for lost souls and people suffering under the weight of sin. Francis’ brand of mercy is earthier, insisting on finding expression in concrete acts of solidarity with the poor, with migrants and refugees, with prisoners, and other victims of what he calls a “throwaway culture.”
That’s why one could make a strong case that the other woman behind the pope’s jubilee is Mother Teresa, and it’s probably no accident that her canonization also seems likely to take place during the year, perhaps in early September.
Yet these are questions of emphasis, not contradiction. Francis certainly would acknowledge that one does not have to be poor to need mercy, and it’s not as if Faustina was blind to the social gospel; the order she joined in Poland, after all, was devoted to helping troubled women, including unwed mothers and prostitutes.
Make no mistake: Francis is a change agent in many respects. But when it comes to his jubilee of mercy, he’s not reinventing the wheel; he’s giving a new push to a wheel that started rolling with a Polish nun and was sped up by a Polish pope.
As a final note, Francis would no doubt also say that Faustina offers a classic illustration of his oft-stated argument that women in Catholicism don’t have to be ordained priests in order to exercise influence.
It’s entirely possible that by the end of the jubilee, it’ll be like a hockey game with three stars of the game acknowledged: Francis, who called it; Faustina, who inspired it, and Mother Teresa, who provided its model for mercy-in-action.
In other words, the female contribution may actually trump that of the male. If so, that’s something in which a pope who’s repeatedly vowed to seek greater roles for women in the Church may find food for thought.