After praying the Angelus with the faithful gathered in Saint Peter’s Square on Sunday, 4 February, Pope Francis looked ahead to the International Day Against Human Trafficking, observed on 8 February. Still today, he said, “many brothers and sisters are deceived with false promises and are then subjected to exploitation and abuse. Let us all join to counter the dramatic global phenomenon of human trafficking”. Earlier, the Pope had reflected on the day’s Gospel reading, in which Jesus goes out to the people to preach to them and bring them healing. The following is a translation of the Holy Father’s words.
Dear brothers and sisters,
The Gospel of the Liturgy shows us Jesus on the move: indeed, he has just finished preaching, and after leaving the synagogue, he goes to Simon Peter’s house, where he heals his mother-in-law; then, towards the evening, he goes out again towards the city gates, where he meets many sick and possessed people and heals them; the morning after, he wakes up early and goes out to withdraw in prayer; and finally, he sets out again across Galilee (cf. Mk 1:29-39). Jesus on the move.
Let us pause to look at this continual movement of Jesus, which tells us something important about God and, at the same time, challenges us with some questions on our faith.
Jesus, who goes towards wounded humanity, shows us the face of the Father. It may be that within us there is still the idea of a distant, cold God, who is indifferent to our fate. On the contrary, the Gospel shows us that, after teaching in the synagogue, Jesus goes out, so that the Word he has preached may reach, touch and heal people. By doing this, he reveals to us that God is not a detached master who speaks to us from on high. On the contrary, he is a Father filled with love who makes himself close to us, who visits our homes, who wants to save and liberate, heal from every ill of the body and spirit. God is always close to us. God’s attitude can be expressed in three words: closeness, compassion and tenderness. God makes himself close to accompany us tenderly, and to forgive us. Do not forget this: closeness, compassion and tenderness. This is God’s attitude.
Jesus’ incessant walking challenges us. We might ask ourselves: have we discovered the face of God as the Father of mercy, or do we believe and proclaim a cold God, a distant God? Does faith instil the restlessness of journeying in us or is it an intimist consolation for us, that calms us? Do we pray just to feel at peace, or does the Word we listen to and preach make us go out, like Jesus, towards others, to spread God’s consolation? It will be good for us to ask ourselves these questions.
Let us look, then, at Jesus’ journeying and remind ourselves that our first spiritual task is this: to abandon the God we think we know, and to convert every day to the God Jesus presents to us in the Gospel, who is the Father of love and the Father of compassion. The Father who is close, compassionate and tender. And when we discover the true face of the Father, our faith matures: we no longer remain “sacristy Christians”, or “parlour Christians”, but rather we feel called to become bearers of God’s hope and healing.
May Mary Most Holy, Woman on a journey, help us to proclaim and bear witness to the Lord who is close, compassionate and tender.
After praying the Angelus the Holy Father continued:
Dear brothers and sisters, this coming 10 February, in East Asia and various parts of the world, millions of families will celebrate the lunar new year. I send them my warm greeting, with the hope that this feast may be an opportunity to experience relationships of affection and gestures of care, which may contribute to creating a society of solidarity and fraternity, where every person is recognized and welcomed in his or her inalienable dignity. As I invoke the Lord’s blessing for everyone, I invite you to pray for peace, for which the world longs so much and which, today more than ever, is endangered in many places. It is not the responsibility of a few, but of the entire human family: let us all cooperate to build it with gestures of compassion and courage!
And let us continue to pray for the populations who suffer as a result of war, especially in Ukraine, Palestine and Israel.
Today, in Italy, we celebrate the Day for Life, on the theme “The strength of life surprises us”. I join the Italian bishops in hoping that ideological visions can be overcome, so as to rediscover that all human lives, even those that are most greatly marked by limitations, have immense value and are capable of giving something to others.
I greet the young people of many countries who have come for the World Day for Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking, which will be observed on 8 February, memorial of Saint Josephine Bakhita, the Sudanese religious sister who was enslaved as a child. Today too, many brothers and sisters are deceived with false promises and are subjected to exploitation and abuse. Let us all join to counter the dramatic global phenomenon of human trafficking.
Let us also pray for those who were killed and injured in the devastating fires that broke out in central Chile.
And I greet all of you who have come to Rome, from Italy and many parts of the world. I greet in particular the consecrated men and women from over 60 countries who are participating in the meeting, “Pilgrims of hope on the path to peace”, organized by the Dicastery for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life. I greet the students from Badajoz, Spain, and those from the “Sévigné” Salesian School of Marseille, as well as the Polish faithful from Warsaw and other cities; and the groups from San Benedetto del Tronto, Ostra and Cingoli. And I can see Japanese flags there! I greet the Japanese. And I can see Polish flags: I greet the Polish people and all of you, and the young people of the Immacolata too.
I wish you all a happy Sunday. Please, do not forget to pray for me. Enjoy your lunch. Arrivederci!