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Listening, renouncing, mission

· Mass at Santa Marta ·

When the Lord passes in our life he always says a word to us and makes us a promise. But he also asks us to rid ourselves of something and entrusts a mission to us. Pope Francis recalled this at the Mass he celebrated this morning, Thursday 5 September, in the Chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae.

In commenting on the episode of the “miraculous catch” recounted by Luke (5:1-11) in the Gospel passage proclaimed during the liturgy, the Pope mentioned St Augustine who “would repeat a sentence that I have always found striking. He said: ‘I am afraid when the Lord passes’. Why? ‘Because I am afraid that he will pass and that I might  not notice him’. And the Lord passes in our life as happened here, in the life of Peter, of James and of John”.

In this case the Lord passed with a miracle in the life of his disciples. However, the Pope clarified,  “Jesus does not always pass in our life with a miracle”. Even though, he added, “he always makes himself heard. Always. And when the Lord passes what happened here always occurs. He tells us something, he makes us understand something, then he says a word to us which is a promise; he asks something of us in our way of life, asks us to give up something, to rid ourselves of  something. And he then gives us a mission”.

These three aspects of Jesus’ passing in our life — he asks of us “a word that is a promise”, he asks us “to get rid of something”, he entrusts us with a “mission” — are clearly portrayed in the passage from Luke. The Holy Father mentioned in particular Peter’s reaction to Jesus’ miracle: “Simon, who was so hot-tempered, went to him: ‘but Lord depart from me for I am a sinful man’. He really felt this for he was such. And what did Jesus say to him? ‘Do not be afraid’”.

“This is a beautiful phrase, so often repeated: ‘Do not be afraid, do not fear’, the Pontiff commented, adding: “And then – and here comes the promise, ‘henceforth you will be catching men’. When the Lord  enters our life, when he passes in our heart, he always says a word to us and makes us a promise: ‘go ahead, take heart, do not be afraid: you will do this!’”.  It is “an invitation to follow him”. And “when we hear this invitation and see that there is something wrong in our life, we must correct it”, and be prepared to renounce generously anything. Even if “in our life”, the Pope explained, “there is something good, Jesus asks us to leave it in order to follow him more closely. This is what happened to the Apostles who left everything as the Gospel says: ‘And  when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him’”.

Christian life, therefore, “means following the Lord always”. However, if we are to follow him we must first “listen to what he is telling us”; and then we must “leave what we have to leave at that moment and follow him”.

Lastly there is the mission that Jesus entrusts to us. Indeed, he never says: “Follow me!” without then speaking of the mission. He always says: ‘leave it, and follow me for such and such’”. Therefore if “we take Jesus’ route”, the Pope emphasized, “it is in order to do something. This is the mission”.

It is “a sequence that is also repeated when we go to pray”. In fact “our prayers”, the Pope emphasized, “must always have these three moments”. First of all, listening to the word of Jesus, a word through which he gives us peace and assures us of his closeness. Then the moment of our renunciation: we must be ready to “leave something: ‘Lord, what do you want me to leave in order to be closer to you?”. Perhaps at that moment he does not tell you – but let us ask the question generously. Lastly, the moment of mission: prayer always helps us to understand what “we must do”.

This sums up our prayer: “Listening to the Lord, having the courage to rid ourselves of something that prevents us from making haste to follow him and, finally, from taking on the mission”. This does not mean that we do not have to face temptations. Peter, Pope Francis recalled, sinned gravely by denying Jesus. Yet later the Lord pardoned him. James and John committed the sin of careerism, but the Lord granted them forgiveness too. It is therefore important to keep these three moments in mind while praying. “We can ask the Apostles”, he concluded, “who experienced these things from so close at hand, to give us the grace always to pray seeking to listen to the word and to the promise of Jesus; to have the willingness to let go of whatever it may be that prevents us from following the Lord closely; and to open our heart to receive the mission”.

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