The Gospel for this Sunday, as we saw, speaks of two sons, but behind them, in a mysterious way, is a third son. The first son says “no,” but does the father’s will. The second son says “yes,” but does not do what he was asked. The third son both says “yes” and does what he was asked. This third son is the Only-begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ, who has gathered us all here. Jesus, on entering the world, said: “Lo, I have come to do thy will, O God” (Hebrews 10:7). He not only said “yes”, he acted on that “yes”, and he suffered it, even to death on the Cross. As the Christological hymn in the second reading says: “Though he was in the form of God, [Jesus] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a Cross” (Philippians 2: 6-8). In humility and obedience, Jesus fulfilled the will of the Father and by dying on the Cross for his brothers and sisters, for us, he saved us from our pride and obstinacy. Let us thank him for his sacrifice, let us bend our knees before his name and proclaim together with the disciples of the first generation: “Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:11).
The Christian life must continually measure itself by Christ: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5), as Saint Paul says in the introduction to the Christological hymn. And a few verses before, he exhorts us: “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any incentive of love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (Philippians 2:1-2). Just as Christ was totally united to the Father and obedient to him, so too the disciples must obey God and be of one mind among themselves. Dear friends, with Paul I dare to exhort you: complete my joy by being firmly united in Christ. The Church in Germany will overcome the great challenges of the present and future, and it will remain a leaven in society, if the priests, consecrated men and women, and the lay faithful, in fidelity to their respective vocations, work together in unity, if the parishes, communities, and movements support and enrich each other, if the baptized and confirmed, in union with their bishop, lift high the torch of untarnished faith and allow it to enlighten their abundant knowledge and skills. The Church in Germany will continue to be a blessing for the entire Catholic world: if she remains faithfully united with the Successors of Saint Peter and the Apostles, if she fosters cooperation in various ways with mission countries and allows herself to be “infected” by the joy that marks the faith of these young Churches.
To his exhortation to unity, Paul adds a call to humility, saying: “Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). Christian life is a life for others: existing for others, humble service of neighbour and of the common good. Dear friends, humility is a virtue that does not enjoy great esteem in the world of today, or indeed of any time. But the Lord’s disciples know that this virtue is, so to speak, the oil that makes the process of dialogue fruitful, cooperation possible and unity sincere. The Latin word for humility, humilitas, is derived from humus and indicates closeness to the earth. Those who are humble stand with their two feet on the ground, but above all they listen to Christ, the Word of God, who ceaselessly renews the Church and each of her members.
Let us ask God for the courage and the humility to walk the path of faith, to draw from the riches of his mercy, and to fix our gaze on Christ, the Word, who makes all things new and is for us “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6): he is our future. Amen.
Airport, Freiburg im Breisgau
Dear Sisters and Brothers!
At the end of this solemn celebration of holy Mass we now pray the Angelus together. This prayer constantly reminds us of the historical beginnings of our salvation. The Archangel Gabriel presents God’s plan of salvation to the Virgin Mary, by which she was to become the Mother of the Redeemer. Mary was fearful, but the angel of the Lord spoke a word of comfort to her: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God.” So Mary is able to respond with her great “yes”. This “yes”, by which she accepts to become the handmaid of the Lord, is the trusting “yes” to God’s plan, to our salvation. And she finally addresses her “yes” to us all, whom she received as her children entrusted to her at the foot of the Cross (cf. John 19:27). She never withdraws this promise. And so she is called happy, or rather blessed, for believing that what was promised her by the Lord would be fulfilled (cf. Luke 1:45). As we pray this Angelus, we may join Mary in her “yes”, we may adhere trustingly to the beauty of God’s plan and to the providence that he has assigned to us in his grace. Then God’s love will also, as it were, take flesh in our lives, becoming ever more tangible. In all our cares we need have no fear. God is good. At the same time we know that we are sustained by the fellowship of the many believers who are now praying the Angelus with us throughout the world, via radio and television.
Acknowledgment: We thank the Vatican Publisher for allowing us to publish the Homilies of Pope Benedict XVI, so that they could be accessed by more people all over the world; as a source of God’s encouragements to all of us.
HOLY MASS FOR THE ELDERLY
HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS
Saint Peter's Square
Today we accept the Gospel we have just heard as a Gospel of encounter: the encounter between young and old, an encounter full of joy, full of faith, and full of hope.
Mary is young, very young. Elizabeth is elderly, yet God’s mercy was manifested in her and for six months now, with her husband Zechariah, she has been expecting a child.
Here too, Mary shows us the way: she set out to visit her elderly kinswoman, to stay with her, to help her, of course, but also and above all to learn from her – an elderly person – a wisdom of life.
Today’s first reading echoes in various ways the Fourth Commandment: “Honour your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). A people has no future without such an encounter between generations, without children being able to accept with gratitude the witness of life from the hands of their parents. And part of this gratitude for those who gave you life is also gratitude for our heavenly Father.
There are times when generations of young people, for complex historical and cultural reasons, feel a deeper need to be independent from their parents, “breaking free”, as it were, from the legacy of the older generation. It is a kind of adolescent rebellion. But unless the encounter, the meeting of generations, is re-established, unless a new and fruitful intergenerational equilibrium is restored, what results is a serious impoverishment for everyone, and the freedom which prevails in society is actually a false freedom, which almost always becomes a form of authoritarianism.
We hear the same message in the Apostle Paul’s exhortation to Timothy and, through him, to the Christian community. Jesus did not abolish the law of the family and the passing of generations, but brought it to fulfillment. The Lord formed a new family, in which bonds of kinship are less important than our relationship with him and our doing the will of God the Father. Yet the love of Jesus and the Father completes and fulfils our love of parents, brothers and sisters, and grandparents; it renews family relationships with the lymph of the Gospel and of the Holy Spirit. For this reason, Saint Paul urges Timothy, who was a pastor and hence a father to the community, to show respect for the elderly and members of families. He tells him to do so like a son: treating “older men as fathers”, “older women as mothers” and “younger women as sisters” (cf. 1 Timothy 5:1). The head of the community is not exempt from following the will of God in this way; indeed, the love of Christ impels him to do so with an even greater love. Like the Virgin Mary, who, though she became the mother of the Messiah, felt herself driven by the love of God taking flesh within her to hasten to her elderly relative.
And so we return to this “icon” full of joy and hope, full of faith and charity. We can imagine that the Virgin Mary, visiting the home of Elizabeth, would have heard her and her husband Zechariah praying in the words of today’s responsorial psalm: “You, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth… Do not cast me off in the time of old age, do not forsake me when my strength is spent... Even to old age and grey hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to all the generations to come” (Psalm 71:5,9,18). The young Mary listened, and she kept all these things in her heart. The wisdom of Elizabeth and Zechariah enriched her young spirit. They were no experts in parenthood; for them too it was the first pregnancy. But they were experts in faith, experts in God, experts in the hope that comes from him: and this is what the world needs in every age. Mary was able to listen to those elderly and amazed parents; she treasured their wisdom, and it proved precious for her in her journey as a woman, as a wife and as a mother.
The Virgin Mary likewise shows us the way: the way of encounter between the young and the elderly. The future of a people necessarily supposes this encounter: the young give the strength which enable a people to move forward, while the elderly consolidate this strength by their memory and their traditional wisdom.
Saint Peter's Square
Before concluding this celebration, I would like to greet all the pilgrims, especially you seniors who have come from many countries. Thank you!
I extend a cordial greeting to the participants of the conference-pilgrimage “Singing the Faith”, organized on the occasion of the 13th anniversary of the choir of the diocese of Rome. Thank you for your presence, and thank you for animating this celebration with your singing, together with the Sistine Chapel Choir. Continue with joy and generosity to carry out your liturgical service in your communities!
Yesterday in Madrid, Bishop Álvaro del Portillo was beatified; may his exemplary Christian and priestly witness arouse in many the desire to adhere more and more to Christ and the Gospel.
Next Sunday we will begin the Synod Assembly on the Family. Here with us is Cardinal Baldisseri, the main organizer: pray for him. I encourage everyone, individuals and communities, to pray for this important event and I entrust this intention to the intercession of Mary, Salus Populi Romani.
Now let us pray the Angelus together. With this prayer, let us invoke Mary’s protection for the elderly throughout the world, especially for those who live in situations of great difficulty.
Acknowledgment: We thank the Vatican Publisher for allowing us to publish the Homilies of Pope Francis I, so that they could be accessed by more people all over the world; as a source of God’s encouragements to all of us.
19 October 2014