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The Christian way

· The Pope's Mass at Santa Marta ·

In his homily on Thursday morning, 6 March, Pope Francis reflected on the day's Gospel from the evangelist Luke (9:22-25), in which Jesus foretells the sufferings he would undergo in his sacred Passion. At the beginning of Lent, the Pope said, the Church “has us read and listen to this message”, which “we might call the Christian way: 'If any many would come after me – i.e., be a Christian, be my disciple – let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me'. For the Lord himself was the first to make this journey”.

The Pope continued reading from the sacred text: “The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised”. He then remarked that we “cannot think about the Christian life apart from this path, from this journey that he first made”. It is “the journey of humility, and of humiliation, of self-emptying”. For “the Christian way of life without the cross is not in fact Christian”, and “if the cross is a cross without Jesus, it is not Christian”.

Taking on a Christian way of life therefore means “taking up one's cross with Jesus and going forward”. Christ himself has shown us this way by emptying himself. Although he was in the form of God, the Pope said, he did not boast, he did not consider himself “a good that could not be renounced, rather he emptied himself” and he became “a servant to us all”.

This is the way of life that “will save us, give us joy and make us fruitful. For this journey of self-denial is undertaken in order to give life: it is the opposite of the journey of egoism ... which leads to one becoming attached to all goods only for oneself”. The Christian way is “open to others, for is is the same journey that Jesus made”. It is a journey “of self-emptying for the sake of giving life. The Christian way is precisely this way of humility, meekness, of gentleness. Whoever wishes to save his life will lose it. In the Gospel Jesus repeats this idea elsewhere. Remember when he speaks about the the grain of wheat: unless this grain dies, it will not bear much fruit (cf Jn 12:24)”.

Pope Francis noted that this journey is to be made “with joy, for it is Jesus himself who gives us this joy. Following Jesus is a joy”. He reiterated, however, that one needs to follow along his way “and not according to the way of the world”. The important thing, he said, is that the journey be made “in order to give life to others and not to give life to oneself. It is the spirit of generosity”.

This,he said, is the path to follow: “humility, service, not a shred of selfishness, not feeling important or making oneself out to be important before others, saying: I am a Christian...!”. Here Pope Francis quoted the Imitation of Christ, which he said “gives us this most beautiful counsel: ama, nesceri, et pro nihilo reputari, i.e., 'love being unknown and unregarded'. This is Christian humility, it is what Jesus did first”.

“Let us think about Jesus who goes before us, who guides us along the way. This is our joy and this is our fruitfulness: to travel with Jesus. Other joys are not fruitful; as the Lord says, they look only to gaining the whole world, but they end in ruin and to the loss of oneself”.

Pope Francis therefore concluded: “at the beginning of Lent, let us ask the Lord to teach us a little of this Christian way of service, of joy, of self-emptying and of fruitfulness with him, as he wills”.

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