On Faith and Strength
Vatican City, (ZENIT.org) | 1984 hits
Here is the translation of the Holy Father’s address before and after the recitation of the Angelus on Sunday to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
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Dear brothers and sisters, hello!
In today’s liturgy we listen to these words from the Letter to the Hebrews: “Persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2). This is a statement that we should highlight in a special way in this Year of Faith. We too, during this whole year of faith, should keep our gave fixed on Jesus because faith, which is our “yes” to the filial relation to God, comes from him, it comes from Jesus. He is the only mediator of this relationship between us and our Father who is in heaven. Jesus is the Son and we are sons in him.
But the Word of God this Sunday contains words of Jesus that put us into crisis and need to be explained so that they are not misunderstood. Jesus says to the disciples: “Did you think that I came to bring peace to the earth? No, I say to you, I came to bring division” (Luke 12:51). What does this mean? It means that the faith is not something decorative, ornamental; living the faith is not decorating life with a little religion, as if life were a pie and faith like the whipped cream that you use to decorate it. No, faith is not this. Faith entails choosing God as the basic criterion for life, and God is not empty, God is not neutral, God is always positive, God is love, and love is positive! After Jesus has come into the world we cannot act as if we do not know God, as if God were something abstract, empty, a mere name; no, God has a particular face, he has a name: God is mercy, God is fidelity, he is life that is given to all of us. This is why Jesus says: I came to bring division; not that Jesus wishes to divide men against each other. On the contrary, Jesus is our peace, he is our reconciliation! But this peace is not the peace of a grave, it is not neutrality, Jesus does not bring neutrality, this peace is not a compromise at all costs. Following Jesus means rejecting evil, egoism, and choosing the good, truth, justice, even when that requires sacrifice and renunciation of our own interests. And, yes, this divides; we know that it divides us even from the closest bonds. But remember: it is not Jesus who divides! He posits the criterion: living for ourselves or living for God and for others; be served or serve; obey ourselves or obey God. This is the way that Jesus is a “sign of contradiction” (Luke 2:34).
So, these words of the Gospel do not authorize in any way the use of force in spreading the faith. It is precisely the contrary: the true force of the Christian is the force of truth and of love, which means rejecting all violence. Faith and violence are incompatible! Faith and violence are incompatible! But faith and strength go together. The Christian is not violent, but he strong. And with what strength? That of meekness, the force of meekness, the force of love.
Dear friends, even among Jesus’ relatives there were some that at a certain point did not share his way of living and preaching, which the Gospel tells us (cf. Mark 3:20-21). But his Mother always followed him faithfully, keeping the gaze of her heart fixed upon Jesus, the Son of the Most High, and his mystery. And in the end, thanks to Mary’s faith, Jesus’s relatives will become part of the first Christian community (cf. Acts 1:14). Let us ask Mary to help us too to keep our gaze carefully fixed upon Jesus and to follow him always, even when it costs us.
[Following the recitation of the Angelus, the Holy Father made the following remarks to those who were present:]
Remember this: following Jesus is not something neutral. Following Jesus means getting involved because faith is not something decorative, it is the strength of the soul!
Dear brothers and sisters,
I greet you with affection, Romans and pilgrims: families, parish groups, young people... I would like to ask for your prayers for the victims of the ferry that sank in the Philippines, for the families too... so much sorrow!
Let us continue to pray for peace in Egypt. All together: Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us! [The people then repeated the phrase: “Mary Queen of Peace, pray for us!”]
I greet the Polish folk music and dance group from Edmonton, Canada.
A special greeting to the young people of Brembilla – Aha, look! I see you very well! – near Bergamo, and I bless the torch that they are transporting on foot from Rome to their town.
And I greet the young people of Altamura.
I wish everyone a good Sunday, and a good lunch! Goodbye!