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In praise of gentleness

· The Pope's Mass at Santa Marta ·

The temptation to gossip about others and to chastise them with words is always just round the corner.  Even in the family, among friends and in the parish, “where the catechesis ladies  wrestle with the ladies of Caritas”.  These “are daily temptations”, “enemies of gentleness” and unity among individuals and in the Christian community, “which confront all of us, and me too”. Pope Francis put us on guard against this attitude during the celebration of Mass on Tuesday morning, 9 April, in the Chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

The Pope pointed out the path of evangelical gentleness in order to give the Spirit the possibility to work and to renew us for a “new life” of unity and love. “Let us ask for the grace not to judge others”, he said, and to learn “not to gossip” behind others’ backs — which would be a really great step forward” – seeking “to be kind to each other”, “respectful”, and gently to make “room for others”.

Concelebrating with the Holy Father were Mons. Luigi Mistò, Secretary of the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See and President of the Council of the Vatican Health Assistance Fund,  and Mons. Paolo Nicolini, Delegate for the Administrative-Management  Sectors of the Vatican Museums, on the 25th anniversary of his priestly ordination.  Those present included Giovanni Amici, Director of General Services of the Governorate of Vatican City State, and Paolo Sagretti on the staff of the Floreria, with representatives of the transport of goods and delivery services and members of the Administrative Council of the Fondo Assistenza Sanitaria, which provides  health-care for Vatican employees.

“In the prayer at the beginning of Mass”, the Pope said in his Homily, “We asked the Lord, through the power of the Risen Christ, to show the world the fullness of new life”. After Jesus’ Resurrection a new life begins: this is what Jesus told Nicodemus. He had to be born from on high, to start again”. “Nicodemus”, Pope Francis explained with reference to the Gospel passage from St John (3:7-15) — “is a studious man. A little earlier, in the Gospel, he had answered Jesus: but how can a man be born again, return to his mother’s womb and be born anew?. Jesus was speaking of another dimension: ‘to be born from on high’, to be born of the Spirit. It is  a new birth, it is that new life, that power, that beauty of new life that we have prayed for. It is the new life we have received in Baptism but which must be developed”.

“We must do our utmost”, the Pope reasserted, “to ensure  that this life develops into new life. And what will this new life be like? It is not that we say today: ‘Yes, I was born today, that’s that, I am starting again’. It is a journey, it is arduous progress,  it is necessary to labour in order to achieve it. Yet it is also a journey that does not only depend on us: it depends mainly on the Spirit, and we must open ourselves to the Spirit so that he may create this new life within us”.

“In the First Reading”, Pope Francis said, commenting on the passage from the Acts of the Apostles (4:31-37) of today’s liturgy, “we have as it were a foretaste, a preview of what ‘new life’ will be like, of what ‘new life’ should be like.  The multitude of those who had become believers were of one heart and one . One soul, one heart: unity, that unity that unanimity, that harmony of feelings of love, of mutual love. That thinking that “others are better than me”; and this is lovely isn’t it?”.

“Reality, however”, the Pope explained, “tells us that after Baptism this does not happen automatically. it is a task to be undertaken on the journey through life, it is a task to be done within us by the Spirit, and it is fidelity to the Spirit on our part”. And “this gentleness in the community is a somewhat forgotten virtue. Being gentle, making room for others. There are so many enemies of gentleness aren’t there, starting with gossip? When people prefer to tell tales, to gossip about others, to give others a few blows. These are daily occurrences that happen to everyone, and to me too”.

“They are temptations of the Evil One”, he continued, “who does not want the Spirit to come to us and create this peace, this gentleness, in Christian communities. We visit the parish and the ladies of catechesis are fighting with the ladies of Caritas”. And these conflicts always exist. Even in the family or in the neighbourhood; even among friends. And this is not new life. When the Spirit comes and causes us to be born to new life, he makes us gentle and kind. Not judging anyone: the only Judge is the Lord”. So this is the proposal: to be silent. And if I have to say something, let me say it to him or to her: but not to the entire neighbourhood,  only to the one who can remedy the situation”.

“This”, Pope Francis concluded, “is only one step in new life, but it is a daily step. If, with the grace of the Spirit, we succeed in never gossiping, it will be a great and beautiful step ahead and it will do everyone good. Let us ask the Lord to show us and the world the beauty and fullness of this new life, of being born of the Spirit who arrives in the community of the faithful and induces us to be gentle, to treat each other with kindness. With respect. Let us ask for this grace for all of us.

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