Franciscan Sunday #3 (The week ending March 31st)
Pope Francis continues to surprise: not only did he celebrate Holy Thursday Mass at Casal del Marmo (the prison for juvenile offenders), but he washed the feet of two girls, one of whom is Muslim. That may not seem like a big deal, but current liturgical law has it that the participants in the foot-washing are to be “chosen men” (viri selecti). But the negative reaction to Pope Francis’ decision, seen among some conservative and traditionalist Catholic circles, seems to overlook the similar actions of Christ, Who had a conversation with a Samaritan woman, and Who worked (both human and divine deeds) on the Sabbath.
Be sure to read these documents in their entirety by clicking their titles; you can also search their texts at the Pope Francis Search Engine.
Holy Week challenges us to … not simply remain in our own secure world, that of the ninety-nine sheep who never strayed from the fold, but [to] go out, with Christ, in search of the one lost sheep, however far it may have wandered. Holy Week is … a time to enter into Christ’s way of thinking and acting. It is a time of grace given us by the Lord so that we can move beyond a dull or mechanical way of living our faith, and instead open the doors of our hearts.
Being with Jesus demands that we go out from ourselves, and from living a tired and habitual faith
To experience Holy Week is to enter more and more into God’s logic of love and self-giving
The anointing that [God's chosen ones] receive is meant in turn to anoint God’s faithful people, whose servants they are; they are anointed for the poor, for prisoners, for the oppressed. … The precious oil which anoints the head of Aaron does more than simply lend fragrance to his person; it overflows down to “the edges”. The Lord will say this clearly: his anointing is meant for the poor, prisoners and the sick, for those who are sorrowing and alone. … A good priest can be recognized by the way his people are anointed: this is a clear proof. When our people are anointed with the oil of gladness, it is obvious: for example, when they leave Mass looking as if they have heard good news. … These words are the sign that the anointing has flowed down to the edges of the robe, for it has turned into a prayer of supplication, the supplication of the People of God. When we have this relationship with God and with his people, and grace passes through us, then we are priests, mediators between God and men. … The priest who seldom goes out of himself, who anoints little … misses out on the best of our people, on what can stir the depths of his priestly heart. Those who do not go out of themselves, instead of being mediators, gradually become intermediaries, managers. … This I ask you: be shepherds, with the “odour of the sheep”, make it real, as shepherds among your flock, fishers of men.
Support your priests with your love and prayers, that they may always be shepherds after Christ’s heart
It is the Lord’s example: he is the most important, and he washes feet, because with us what is highest must be at the service of others. … Help one another: this is what Jesus teaches us and this what I am doing, and doing with all my heart, because it is my duty. … I love this and I love to do it because that is what the Lord has taught me to do. But you too, help one another. … In this way, by helping one another, we will do some good.
Don’t let yourselves lose hope! You understand? With hope always, let’s go forward! … ["Why did you come here to Casal del Marmo today?"] It’s something that came from my heart; I just felt it. Where are those who perhaps could help me more to be humble, to be a servant as a bishop must be.
I do not wish to add too many words. One word should suffice this evening, that is the Cross itself. The Cross is the word through which God has responded to evil in the world. Sometimes it may seem as though God does not react to evil, as if he is silent. And yet, God has spoken, he has replied, and his answer is the Cross of Christ: a word which is love, mercy, forgiveness. … Let us walk together along the Way of the Cross and let us do so carrying in our hearts this word of love and forgiveness.
This image, impressed upon the cloth, speaks to our heart and moves us to climb the hill of Calvary, to look upon the wood of the Cross, and to immerse ourselves in the eloquent silence of love. Let us therefore allow ourselves to be reached by this look, which is directed not to our eyes but to our heart. In silence, let us listen to what he has to say to us from beyond death itself. … It is as if [the face in the shroud] let a restrained but powerful energy within it shine through, as if to say: have faith, do not lose hope; the power of the love of God, the power of the Risen One overcomes all things.
Let us not close our hearts, let us not lose confidence, let us never give up: there are no situations which God cannot change, there is no sin which he cannot forgive if only we open ourselves to him. … Jesus no longer belongs to the past, but lives in the present and is projected towards the future; he is the everlasting “today” of God. … If up till now you have kept [Jesus] at a distance, step forward. He will receive you with open arms. If you have been indifferent, take a risk: you won’t be disappointed. … They are asked to remember their encounter with Jesus, to remember his words, his actions, his life; and it is precisely this loving remembrance of their experience with the Master that enables the women to master their fear and to bring the message of the Resurrection to the Apostles.
Jesus did not return to his former life, to earthly life, but entered into the glorious life of God and he entered there with our humanity, opening us to a future of hope. This is what Easter is: it is the exodus, the passage of human beings from slavery to sin and evil to the freedom of love and goodness. … Christ died and rose once for all, and for everyone, but the power of the Resurrection, this passover from slavery to evil to the freedom of goodness, must be accomplished in every age, in our concrete existence, in our everyday lives. How many deserts, even today, do human beings need to cross! Above all, the desert within, when we have no love for God or neighbour, when we fail to realize that we are guardians of all that the Creator has given us and continues to give us.