The Church in Benin has received much from her missionaries: she must in turn carry this message of hope to people who do not know or who no longer know the Lord Jesus. Dear brothers and sisters, I ask you to be concerned for evangelization in your country, and among the peoples of your continent and the whole world. The recent Synod of Bishops for Africa stated this in no uncertain terms: the man of hope, the Christian, cannot be uninterested in his brothers and sisters. This would be completely opposed to the example of Jesus. The Christian is a tireless builder of communion, peace and solidarity - gifts which Jesus himself has given us. By being faithful to him, we will cooperate in the realization of God’s plan of salvation for humanity.
Dear brothers and sisters, I urge you, therefore, to strengthen your faith in Jesus Christ, to be authentically converted to him. He alone gives us the true life and can liberate us for all our fears and sluggishness, from all our anguish. Rediscover the roots of your existence in the baptism which you received and which makes you children of God! May Jesus Christ give you strength to live as Christians and to find ways to transmit generously to new generations what you have received from your fathers in faith! AKLUNƆ NI KƆN FƐNU TƆN LƐ DO MI JI [Fon: May the Lord fill you with his graces!]
On this feast day, we rejoice together in the reign of Christ the King over the whole world. He is the one who removes all that hinders reconciliation, justice and peace. We are reminded that true royalty does not consist in a show of power, but in the humility of service; not in the oppression of the weak, but in the ability to protect them and to lead them to life in abundance (cf. John 10:10). Christ reigns from the Cross and, with his arms open wide, he embraces all the peoples of the world and draws them into unity. Through the Cross, he breaks down the walls of division, he reconciles us with each other and with the Father. We pray today for the people of Africa, that all may be able to live in justice, peace and the joy of the Kingdom of God (cf. Romans 14:17). With these sentiments I affectionately greet all the English-speaking faithful who have come from Ghana and Nigeria and neighbouring countries. May God bless all of you!
Queridos irmãos e irmãs da África lusófona que me ouvis, a todos dirijo a minha saudação e convido a renovar a vossa decisão de pertencer a Cristo e de servir o seu Reino de reconciliação, de justiça e de paz. O seu Reino pode ser posto em perigo no nosso coração. Aqui Deus cruza-se com a nossa liberdade. Nós – e só nós – podemos impedi-Lo de reinar sobre nós mesmos e, em consequência, tornar difícil a sua realeza sobre a família, a sociedade e a história. Por causa de Cristo, tantos homens e mulheres se opuseram, vitoriosamente, às tentações do mundo para viver fielmente a sua fé, às vezes mesmo até ao martírio. A seu exemplo, amados pastores e fiéis, sede sal e luz de Cristo na terra africana! Amen.
[Dear brothers and sisters of the Portuguese-speaking nations of Africa who are listening to me! I greet all of you and I invite you to renew your decision to belong to Christ and to serve his Kingdom of reconciliation, justice and peace. His Kingdom can be threatened in our hearts. There God comes face to face with our freedom. We – and we alone – can prevent him from reigning over us and consequently obstructing his Lordship over our families, society and history. Because of Christ, many men and women successfully opposed the temptations of the world in order to live their faith truly, even to martyrdom. Dear pastors and faithful, following their example, be the salt and light of Christ, in the land of Africa! Amen.]
Amitié Stadium, Cotonou
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
At the conclusion of this solemn Eucharistic celebration, having been made one in Christ, let us turn with confidence to his Mother and pray the Angelus. Now that I have consigned the Apostolic Exhortation Africae Munus, I wish to entrust to the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Africa, the new chapter now opening for the Church on this continent, asking her to accompany the future evangelization of Africa as a whole and, in particular, of this land of Benin.
Mary joyfully accepted the Lord’s invitation to become the Mother of Jesus. May she show us how to respond to the mission which God entrusts to us today! Mary is that earthly woman who received the privilege of becoming the Mother of the Saviour of the world. Who better than she knows the value and beauty of human life? May we never cease to be amazed before the gift of life! Who better than she knows our needs as men and women who are still pilgrims on this earth? At foot of the Cross, united to her crucified Son, she is the Mother of Hope. This hope enables us to take up our daily lives with the power bestowed by the truth which is made known in Jesus.
Dear Brothers and Sisters of Africa, this land which sheltered the Holy Family, may you continue to cultivate Christian family values. At a time when so many families are separated, in exile, grief-stricken as a result of unending conflicts, may you be artisans of reconciliation and hope. With Mary, Our Lady of the Magnificat, may you always abide in joy. May this joy remain deep within hearts of your families and your countries!
In the words of the Angelus, let us now turn to our beloved Mother. Before her let us place the intentions of our hearts. Let us now pray to her for Africa and for the whole world.
- GIOVANNI ANTONIO FARINA
HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS
Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
Today’s liturgy invites us to fix our gaze on Christ, the King of the Universe. The beautiful prayer of the Preface reminds us that his kingdom is “a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace”. The readings we have listened to show us how Jesus established his kingdom; how he brings it about in history; and what he now asks of us.
First, how Jesus brought about his kingdom: he did so through his closeness and tenderness towards us. He is the Shepherd, of whom the Prophet Ezekiel spoke in the First Reading (cf. 34:11-12, 15-17). These verses are interwoven with verbs which show the care and love that the Shepherd has for his flock: to search, to look over, to gather the dispersed, to lead into pasture, to bring to rest, to seek the lost sheep, to lead back the confused, to bandage the wounded, to heal the sick, to take care of, to pasture. All of these are fulfilled in Jesus Christ: he is truly the “great Shepherd of the sheep and the protector of our souls” (cf. Hebrew 13:20; 1 Peter 2:25).
Those of us who are called to be pastors in the Church cannot stray from this example, if we do not want to become hirelings. In this regard the People of God have an unerring sense for recognizing good shepherds and in distinguishing them from hirelings.
After his victory, that is after his Resurrection, how has Jesus advanced his kingdom? The Apostle Paul, in the First Letter to the Corinthians, says: “for he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet” (15:25). The Father, little by little, subjects all to the Son and, at the same time, the Son subjects all to the Father, including even himself in the end. Jesus is not a King according to earthly ways: for him, to reign is not to command, but to obey the Father, to give himself over to the Father, so that his plan of love and salvation may be brought to fulfilment. In this way there is full reciprocity between the Father and the Son. The period of Christ’s reign is the long period of subjecting everything to the Son and consigning everything to the Father. “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:26). And in the end, when all things will be under the sovereignty of Jesus, and everything, including Jesus himself, will be subjected to the Father, God will be all in all (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:28).
The Gospel teaches what Jesus’ kingdom requires of us: it reminds us that closeness and tenderness are the rule of life for us also, and that on this basis we will be judged. This is how we will be judged. This is the great parable of the final judgement in Matthew 25. The King says: “Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me” (25:34-36). The righteous will ask him: when did we do all this? And he will answer them: “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40).
The starting point of salvation is not the confession of the sovereignty of Christ, but rather the imitation of Jesus’ works of mercy through which he brought about his kingdom. The one who accomplishes these works shows that he has welcomed Christ’s sovereignty, because he has opened his heart to God’s charity. In the twilight of life we will be judged on our love for, closeness to and tenderness towards our brothers and sisters. Upon this will depend our entry into, or exclusion from, the kingdom of God: our belonging to the one side or the other. Through his victory, Jesus has opened to us his kingdom. But it is for us to enter into it, beginning with our life now – his kingdom begins now – by being close in concrete ways to our brothers and sisters who ask for bread, clothing, acceptance, solidarity, catechesis. If we truly love them, we will be willing to share with them what is most precious to us, Jesus himself and his Gospel.
Today the Church places before us the example of these new saints. Each in his or her own way served the kingdom of God, of which they became heirs, precisely through works of generous devotion to God and their brothers and sisters. They responded with extraordinary creativity to the commandment of love of God and neighbour. They dedicated themselves, without holding back, to serving the least and assisting the destitute, sick, elderly and pilgrims. Their preference for the smallest and poorest was the reflection and measure of their unconditional love of God. In fact, they sought and discovered love in a strong and personal relationship with God, from whence springs forth true love for one’s neighbour. In the hour of judgement, therefore, they heard that tender invitation: “Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34).
Through the rite of canonization, we have confessed once again the mystery of God’s kingdom and we have honoured Christ the King, the Shepherd full of love for his sheep. May our new saints, through their witness and intercession, increase within us the joy of walking in the way of the Gospel and our resolve to embrace the Gospel as the compass of our lives. Let us follow in their footsteps, imitating their faith and love, so that our hope too may be clothed in immortality. May we not allow ourselves to be distracted by other earthly and fleeting interests. And may Mary, our Mother and Queen of all Saints, guide us on the way to the kingdom of heaven.
SOLEMNITY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, KING OF THE UNIVERSE
Saint Peter's Square
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
At the end of this celebration, I wish to greet all of you who have come to pay tribute to these new saints, especially the official delegations from Italy and India.
The example of these four Italian saints, born in the Provinces of Vicenza, Naples, Cosenza and Rimini, aids the dear people of Italy to renew the spirit of cooperation and concord for the common good and to look to the future with hope, trusting in the nearness of God, who never abandons us, even in moments of difficulty.
For the intercession of the two Indian saints from Kerala, great land of faith and vocations to the priesthood and religious life, may the Lord grant new missionary drive to the Church in India — that is so good! — so that, inspired by their example of concord and reconciliation, the Christians of India may continue on the path of solidarity and fraternal coexistence.
I affectionately greet the cardinals, bishops, priests, as well as the families, parish groups, associations and schools present. With filial love, let us turn now to the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, Queen of the Saints and model for all Christians.
I wish you a happy Sunday, in peace and with the joy of these new saints. I ask you to please pray for me. Have a good lunch and arrivederci!
Acknowledgment: We thank the Vatican Publisher for allowing us to publish the Homilies of Saint Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI & 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.
21 December 2014