“Today, war is in itself a crime against humanity”, Pope Francis said at the Angelus on Sunday, 14 January, in his renewed appeal for peace throughout the world. Earlier, the Holy Father had reflected on the day’s Gospel reading of John, in which John the Baptist points out Jesus as the Messiah, to two disciples. The following is a translation of the Holy Father’s reflection which he shared in Italian with the faithful gathered in Saint Peter’s Square.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today the Gospel presents Jesus’ encounter with the first disciples (cf. Jn 1:35-42). This scene invites us to remember our first encounter with Jesus. Each one of us has had their first encounter with Jesus, as a child, as an adolescent, as a young person, as an adult…. When did I encounter Jesus for the first time? We can try to remember this a bit. And after this thought, this memory, [let us] renew the joy of following him and ask ourselves what does it mean to be a disciple of Jesus? According to today’s Gospel, we can use three words: to seek Jesus, to stay with Jesus, and to proclaim Jesus. To seek, to stay, to proclaim.
First of all, to seek. Thanks to the Baptist’s testimony, two disciples began to follow Jesus. He “saw them following, and said to them, ‘What do you seek?’” (v. 38). These are the first words Jesus addresses to them: first of all, he invites them to look within, to question themselves about the desires they have in their heart. “What do you seek?”. The Lord does not want to make proselytes, he does not want to gain superficial followers. The Lord wants people who question themselves and let themselves be challenged by his Word. Thus, in order to be Jesus’ disciple, one has to first of all seek him, to have an open, searching heart, not a satiated or complacent heart.
What were the first disciples seeking? We see this in the second verb: to stay. They were not seeking news or information about God, or signs or miracles, but rather, they wished to meet the Messiah, to talk with him, to stay with him, to listen to him. What is the first question they ask? “Where are you staying?” (v. 38). And Christ invites them to stay with him: “Come and see” (v. 39). To stay with him, to remain with him: this is the most important thing for the disciple of the Lord. In short, faith is not a theory, no; it is an encounter. It is going to see where the Lord stays, and dwelling with him. Encountering the Lord and staying with him.
To seek, to stay, and finally, to proclaim. The disciples sought Jesus, they then went with him and stayed with him the entire evening. And now, to proclaim. They return and they proclaim. To seek, to stay, to proclaim. Do I seek Jesus? Do I stay with Jesus? Do I have the courage to proclaim Jesus? That first encounter with Jesus was such a powerful experience that the two disciples always remembered the time: “it was about the tenth hour” (v. 39). This shows us the power of that encounter. And their hearts were so filled with joy that they immediately felt the need to communicate the gift they had received. Indeed, one of the two, Andrew, hastened to share it with his brother, Peter, and brought him to the Lord. Seeking the Lord, staying with him.
Brothers and sisters, today, let us also recall our first encounter with the Lord. Each one of us has had the first encounter, whether within the family or outside it… When did I encounter the Lord? When did the Lord touch my heart? And let us ask ourselves: are we still disciples, enamoured of the Lord, do we seek the Lord, or do we settle into a faith made up of habits? Do we stay with him in prayer, do we know how to stay in silence with him? Do I know how to stay in prayer with the Lord, to stay in silence with him? And then, do we feel the desire to share, to proclaim this beauty of the encounter with the Lord?
May Mary Most Holy, first disciple of Jesus, give us the desire to seek him, the desire to stay with him, and to proclaim him.
After praying the Angelus, the Holy Father continued:
I greet all of you, people of Rome and pilgrims from Italy and many parts of the world. In particular I greet the members of the Hermandad Sacramental de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios from Villarrasa, Spain.
Let us not forget to pray for the victims of the landslide in Colombia that has claimed many victims.
And let us not forget those who suffer the cruelty of war in so many parts of the world, especially in Ukraine, Palestine and Israel. At the beginning of the year, we exchanged wishes of peace, but weapons continue to kill and destroy. Let us pray that those who have power over these conflicts may reflect on the fact that war is not the way to resolve them, because it sows death among civilians and destroys cities and infrastructure. In other words, today war is in itself a crime against humanity. Let us not forget this: war is in itself a crime against humanity. Peoples need peace! The world needs peace! A few minutes ago, I heard Father Faltas, vicar of the Custody of the Holy Land in Jerusalem, speaking on the programme, “A Sua Immagine”. He spoke about educating for peace. We must educate for peace. We can see that we — humanity as a whole — are not yet educated enough to stop all war. Let us always pray for this grace: to educate for peace.
I wish you all a happy Sunday. Please do not forget to pray for me. Enjoy your lunch. Arrivederci!