Thursday, March 13, 2014

Happy Anniversary Pope Francis - Ad multos annos!!

In his first year, Pope Francis has been an incredible breath of fresh air to the Church and the world!  He has been the "rock star" Pope on the covers of countless world magazines, notably Time Magazine, Rolling Stone and surprisingly, The Advocate's Man of the Year.

He has captured our hearts through images from the first moments of his papacy as he bowed before the world and asked for our prayers, to his washing the feet of prisoners (some of them non-Catholic, some
of them women) on Holy Thursday, to his embracing the young boy with cerebral palsy in St. Peter's Square on Easter Sunday to the man with a disfiguring skin condition, to the other young boy who stole his chair and would not leave his side.

And, he has certainly captured our hearts through is words. This is a quotable Pope. I know in my religious community, it has become almost a joke that now a homily isn't a homily unless at some point the preacher says, "Well, you know, I was reading what Pope Francis said this morning about these readings, and..." He is a quotable Pope.

We all know the most famous ones:

  • "Who am I to judge?" 
  • "How I would like a church that is poor and that is for the poor."  
  • "Be shepherds with the 'smell of the sheep'." 
  • "God never tires of forgiving us."
  • "Let the Church always be a place of mercy and hope, where everyone is welcomed, loved and forgiven."
  • "That some homeless people freeze to death on the street, that is not news. On the other hand, a drop of 10 points in the stock markets is a tragedy. That is how people are thrown away."
  • "I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars. You have to heal his wounds.”
  • We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible...The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently."
These are just to name a very few in a truly spectacular year.  I thought today, as we all mark this important one year anniversary, I would share my favorite quote of our beloved Holy Father.  It comes from a daily homily that he gave on, not surprisingly, the Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle back on July 3.  It touched me deeply, but also I think it is one of the best indications of the kind of Church he dreams of, the kind of followers of Christ the Pope prays that we all will be. This is what a "church that is poor and that is for the poor" would look like.  I hope you enjoy it.
Jesus after the Resurrection, appears to the apostles, but Thomas is not there: "He wanted him to wait a week" - said Pope Francis - "The Lord knows why he does such things. And he gives the time he believes best for each of us. He gave Thomas a week. " Jesus reveals himself with his wounds: "His whole body was clean, beautiful, full of light" - said the Pope - "but the wounds were and are still there" and when the Lord comes at the end of the world, "we will see His wounds". In order to believe Thomas wanted to put his fingers in the wounds. 
"He was stubborn. But the Lord wanted exactly that, a stubborn person to make us understand something greater. Thomas saw the Lord, was invited to put his finger into the wounds left by the nails; to put his hand in His side and he did not say, 'It's true: the Lord is risen'. No! He went further. He said: 'God'. The first of the disciples who makes the confession of the divinity of Christ after the Resurrection. And he worshiped Him”. 
"And so" - continued the Pope - "we understand what the Lord’s intention was when he made him wait: he wanted to guide his disbelief, not to an affirmation of the Resurrection, but an affirmation of His Divinity. The path to our encounter with Jesus-God are his wounds. There is no other." 
"In the history of the Church there have been some mistakes made on the path towards God. Some have believed that the Living God, the God of Christians can be found on the path of meditation, indeed that we can reach higher through meditation. That's dangerous! How many are lost on that path, never to return. Yes perhaps they arrive at knowledge of God, but not of Jesus Christ, Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity. They do not arrive at that. It is the path of the Gnostics, no? They are good, they work, but it is not the right path. It’s very complicated and does not lead to a safe harbor." 
"Others thought that to arrive at God we must mortify ourselves, we have to be austere and have chosen the path of penance: only penance and fasting. Not even these arrive at the Living God, Jesus Christ. They are the Pelagians, who believe that they can arrive by their own efforts." 
"But Jesus tells us that the path to encountering Him is to find His wounds. We find Jesus’ wounds in carrying out works of mercy, giving to the body of your wounded brother, because he is hungry, because he is thirsty, because he is naked because it is humiliated, because he is a slave, because he's in jail because he is in the hospital. Those are the wounds of Jesus today. And Jesus asks us to take a leap of faith, towards Him, but through these His wounds." 
"'Oh, great! Let's set up a foundation to help everyone and do so many good things to help '. That's important, but if we remain on this level, we will only be philanthropic." 
"We need to touch the wounds of Jesus, we must caress the wounds of Jesus, we need to bind the wounds of Jesus with tenderness, we have to kiss the wounds of Jesus, and this literally. Just think of what happened to St. Francis, when he embraced the leper? The same thing that happened to Thomas: his life changed.
Pope Francis concluded that we do not need to go on a “refresher course” to touch the living God, but to enter into the wounds of Jesus, and for this "all we have to do is go out onto the street. Let us ask St. Thomas for the grace to have the courage to enter into the wounds of Jesus with tenderness and thus we will certainly have the grace to worship the living God. "
Today, on this one year anniversary of his election, the Pope has once again asked for our prayers. His twitter account today asked simply, "Please pray for me." And so we shall.
Lord, source of eternal life and truth,
give to Your shepherd, Pope Francis,
a spirit of courage and right judgement,
a spirit of knowledge and love. 
By governing with fidelity those entrusted to his care
may he, as successor to the apostle Peter and vicar of Christ,
build Your church into a sacrament of
unity, love, and peace for all the world. 
May Saint Ignatius of Loyola and
Saint Francis of Assisi
both inspire and intercede for him. 
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
Who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever. Amen.
May God bless our holy Pope and bless him with many years of health, happiness and holiness as he continues to lead the Church in holiness. Ad multos annos!

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