· The Pope’s Mass at Santa Marta ·
“Peace, love and joy” are “the three key words” which Jesus has entrusted to us, and it is the Holy Spirit who makes them a reality in our lives.
The authentic Christian meaning of the words peace, love and joy was the focus of Pope Francis’ homily on Thursday morning, 22 May, in the Chapel of Santa Marta. His remarks were based on the Collect for the day’s Mass: “O God, by whose grace, though sinners, we are made just and, though pitiable, made blessed, stand, we pray, by your works, stand by your gifts”, that is, the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
With this prayer, the Pope began, “we reminded the Lord of the work he performs in our regard: ‘though sinners, we are made just and, though pitiable, made blessed’.
Yes, he said, this is precisely “the work which Jesus accomplished” and today “we remember it with gratitude”. The Pope said; we also ask him “to stand by his gifts, the gift which he has given us”: the Holy Spirit. For we do not say, “stand by us”, but rather “stand by your gifts”.
This is a matter of the utmost importance, the Pope said, for “in his farewell discourse, in the final days before he went to heaven, Jesus spoke of many things”, but they all revolved around the same point, represented by “three key words: peace, love and joy”.
Regarding the first, the Pope recalled that two days prior he had reflected on the fact that the Lord “does not give us peace, as the world gives it to us; instead he gives us another kind of peace: a peace that lasts!”.
Regarding the second key word, i.e. “love”, the Pope emphasized that Jesus “ said many times that the great commandment is to love God and to love one’s neighbour”; indeed, “he spoke about it on various occasions”; for example when “he taught [his disciples] how one is to love God, without idols”, and also “how one is to love one’s neighbour”. Jesus sums this up in the “protocol” contained in Chapter 25 of St Matthew's Gospel, “on which we shall be judged”. There, the Lord explains how “we are to love our neighbour”.
However, in the Gospel passage set forth in the day’s liturgy (Jn 15:9-11), “Jesus tells us something new about love: you are not only to love, but to abide in my love”. In fact, “the Christian vocation is to abide in God’s love, i.e., to breathe in and live on this oxygen, to live in this air ... to abide in God’s love”. Thus the Lord “concludes his deep discourse on love”.
But what is God’s love like? Pope Francis replied with the words of Jesus: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you”. It is therefore “a love that comes from the Father”, and the “relationship of love between him and the Father” becomes “a relationship between him and us”. Thus, “he asks us to abide in this love that comes from the Father”.
“The Apostle John will then go on and tell us that we must also give this love to others”. Yet we must first “abide in love”. Love is therefore the “second word” that Jesus leaves us.
How are we to abide in love? Again, the Pope responded with the words of the Lord: “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love”. Therefore, “keeping the commandments” is “the sign that we abide in Jesus’ love”. The Pontiff then exclaimed: “this is something beautiful: that I follow the commandments in my life!”. So much so that “when we remain in love the commandments follow on their own, from love”. Indeed, “love leads us to fulfil the commandments quite naturally”, for “the root of love blossoms in the commandments”, and the commandments are “the guiding thread” which binds the chain that unites the Father, Jesus and us.
The third word indicated by the Pope during his homily was “joy”, and here the Pope turned again to Jesus’ words in the day’s Gospel: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in your, and that your joy may be full”. The Pope highlighted that “joy is the sign of the Christian”. He said: “a Christian without joy either is not a Christian or he is sick”, his Christian health is not all right ... I once said that there are Christians with faces like pickled chilli peppers: always with red faces, with souls to match. And this is unseemly!”. These “are not Christians”, for “a Christian without joy is not Christian”.
Yet for a Christian, joy is present “even amid suffering, tribulation and persecution”. The Pope then invited those present to consider the martyrs of the first centuries — like Saints Felicity, Perpetua and Agnes — who “went to their martyrdom as though they were going to their wedding”. This “great Christian joy”, he said, “guards peace and love”.
Three key words, then: peace, love and joy. However, the Pope warned, we need to understand their deep and true significance, which do not derive “from the world” but from the Father. In fact, he explained, it is the Holy Spirit “who creates this peace; who creates this love that comes from the Father and the Son and which then comes to us; who gives us joy”. Yes, he said, “it is the Holy Spirit ... who is the great forgotten One in our lives”. Addressing those who were present, the Pope confided that he would have like to ask everyone if they pray to the Holy Spirit. “No, don’t raise your hands!”, he immediately added with a smile. The problem, he repeated, is that the Holy Spirit is truly “the great forgotten One!”. Yet he is the “gift that gives us peace, that teaches us to love, and who fills us with joy”.
Pope Francis concluded by repeating the Collect from the day’s liturgy, in which, he said, “we asked the Lord: stand by your gift!”. Together, he said, “we asked for the grace that the Lord may always guard over the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, the Spirit who teaches us to love, who fills us with joy, and who gives us peace”.