On Holy Week

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Here is the translation of Pope Francis’ address during the first General Audience of his Pontificate today, held in St. Peter’s Square.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

I am pleased to welcome you in this my first General audience. With great gratitude and veneration I gather the "witness" from the hands of my beloved predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI. After Easter we will return to the catechesis of the Year of Faith. Today I would like to dwell on Holy Week. With Palm Sunday we have begun this Week – the center of the whole Liturgical Year – in which we accompany Jesus in his Passion, Death and Resurrection.

But what could living Holy Week mean for us? What does it mean to follow Jesus in his path towards the Cross on Calvary and the Resurrection? In his earthly mission, Jesus walked the streets of the Holy Land; he called twelve simple people to remain with him, to share his journey and to continue his mission; he has chosen them from among the people full of faith in God's promises. He spoke to everyone, without distinction, to the great and the humble, to the rich young man and the poor widow, to the powerful and the weak; he brought the mercy and forgiveness of God; he healed, he consoled, he understood; he gave hope; he brought to all the presence of God who is interested in every man and every woman, as a good father and a good mother is in each of their children. God did not wait for everyone to go to Him, but it was He who moved toward us, without calculating, without measure. God is like this: He always takes the first step, He moves towards us. Jesus lived the daily realities of the most common people: he was moved before the crowd that seemed like a flock without a shepherd; he cried in front of the suffering of Martha and Mary for the death of their brother Lazarus; he called a tax collector to be his disciple; he suffered the betrayal of a friend. In him God gave us the certainty that He is with us, in our midst. "Foxes have holes”, Jesus said, “and the birds of the air their nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head"(Mt 8:20). Jesus has no home because his home is the people, his mission is open to all the doors to God, to be the presence of God's love.

In Holy Week, we live the summit of this journey, of this design of love that runs through the entire history of the relationship between God and humanity. Jesus enters Jerusalem to perform the last step, summarizing his whole existence: he gives himself totally, he doesn't take anything for himself, even his own life. In the Last Supper, with his friends, he shares the bread and distributes the chalice "for us". The Son of God offers us, he delivers into our hands his Body and his Blood to always be with us, to dwell among us. And in the Garden of Olives, as in the trial before Pilate, he offers no resistance, he gives himself; he is the suffering servant foretold by Isaiah that pours himself out to death (cf. Is 53:12).

Jesus doesn't live this love that leads to sacrifice passively or as a fatalistic destiny; he certainly doesn't hide his deep human anguish in the face of violent death, but he entrusts himself with full confidence to the Father. Jesus handed himself over voluntarily to death in order to respond to the love of God the Father, in perfect union with his will, to prove his love for us. On the cross Jesus "loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal 2:20), says St. Paul. Each one of us can say: He loved me and he gave himself for me. Each one can say this “for me”.

What does all this mean for us? It means that this is also my, your, our way. To live Holy Week following Jesus not only with the commotion of the heart; to live Holy Week following Jesus means learning to come out of ourselves - as I said on Sunday - to reach out to others, to go to the outskirts of existence, ourselves taking the first step towards our brothers and sisters, especially those farthest away, those who are forgotten, those most in need of understanding, consolation, help. There is much need to bring the living presence of the Jesus, merciful and full of love!

Living Holy Week means entering more and more into God's logic, the logic of the Cross, which is not first of all that of pain and death, but that of love and self-giving that brings life. It is entering into the logic of the Gospel. To follow, to accompany Christ, to stay with him requires a "going out", to go out. To go out of oneself, of a dull or mechanical way of living the faith, of the temptation to close ourselves in our schemes which end up closing the horizon of the creative action of God. God came out himself to come among us, he has placed his tent among us to bring us God's mercy that saves and gives hope. We, too, if we want to follow Him and stay with Him, must not be content with staying in the enclosure of the ninety-nine sheep, we must "come out", to seek out with Him the lost sheep, the farthest. Mark this well: to come out of ourselves, like Jesus, Like God came out of Himself in Jesus and Jesus came out of himself for all of us.

Someone could say to me: "But Father, I don't have time", "I have so many things to do", "it’s hard", "what can I do with my little strength, and with my sins, with so many things?" Often we settle for a few prayers, a distracted and inconstant Sunday Mass, a few acts of charity, but we do not have the courage to "go out" to bring Christ. We are a little like St. Peter. As soon as Jesus speaks of passion, death and resurrection, of self-giving, of love towards all, the Apostle takes him aside and rebukes him. What Jesus says disrupts his plans, it appears unacceptable, it endangers the fixed securities that he had built, his idea of the Messiah. And Jesus looks at the disciples and addresses to Peter one of the toughest words of the Gospels: "Get behind me, Satan! For you are not thinking according to God, but according to men» (Mk 8:33). God always thinks with mercy, never forget this. God always thinks with mercy: He is the merciful Father! God thinks like the father who awaits the return of his son and goes out to meet him, he sees him coming when he's still far off...What does this mean? That every day he went to see whether his son was coming home: this is our merciful Father. It is a sign that He was hoping for his return, with all his heart, from the terrace of his house. God thinks like the Samaritan who does not pass near the victim, feeling sorry for him, or looking the other way, but coming to his aid without asking anything in return; without asking whether he was a Jew, or a pagan, or a Samaritan, if he was rich, if he was poor: he doesn’t ask anything. He comes to his aid: this is God. God thinks like the shepherd who gives his life to defend and save the sheep.

Holy Week is a time of grace that the Lord gives us to open the doors of our hearts, of our lives, of our parishes – what a pity, so many closed parishes! – of the movements, of the associations, and "to go out" towards the other, going out in search of others so as to bring them the light and joy of our faith. To go out always! And this with the love and tenderness of God, with respect and patience, knowing that we offer our hands, our feet, our heart, but then it is God who guides them and makes fruitful every our action.

I wish everyone to live well these days following the Lord with courage, bearing within ourselves a ray of His love to those we encounter.

[Translation by Peter Waymel]

Speaker:

Dear Brothers and Sisters, On Palm Sunday we began Holy Week, the heart of the liturgical year, when we commemorate the great events that express most powerfully God’s loving plan for all men and women. Jesus enters Jerusalem in order to give himself completely. He gives us his body and his blood, and promises to remain with us always. He freely hands himself over to death in obedience to the Father’s will, and in this way shows how much he loves us. We are called to follow in his footsteps. Holy Week challenges us to step outside ourselves so as to attend to the needs of others: those who long for a sympathetic ear, those in need of comfort or help. We should not simply remain in our own secure world, that of the ninety-nine sheep who never strayed from the fold, but we should go out, with Christ, in search of the one lost sheep, however far it may have wandered. Holy Week is not so much a time of sorrow, but rather a time to enter into Christ’s way of thinking and acting. It is a time of grace given us by the Lord so that we can move beyond a dull or mechanical way of living our faith, and instead open the doors of our hearts, our lives, our parishes, our movements or associations, going out in search of others so as to bring them the light and the joy of our faith in Christ.

Pope Francis:

[delivered in Italian] Heartfelt greetings to the English-speaking pilgrims, especially the large group of university students taking part in the international UNIV Congress here in Rome. I extend a warm welcome to the pilgrims from England, Ireland, the Philippines and the United States of America. I invite all of you to enter fully into the spirit of Holy Week, following in the footsteps of Jesus and bringing the light of his love to everyone you meet. Happy Easter!

© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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I extend a cordial welcome to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. In particular, I salute the university students participating in the international meeting promoted by the Prelature of Opus Dei. Dear friends, you have come to Rome on the occasion of Holy Week for an experience of faith and spiritual enrichment. Thank you for your prayers and for your affection for the Pope. With your presence in the academic world, may every one of you realize what St. Josemaria Escrivá proclaimed: "It is in the midst of the most material things of the earth that we must sanctify ourselves, serving God and all men" (Conversations, no. 13).

I greet the faithful of the Diocese of Florence and the many students from various schools. I thank you all for this visit, wishing for each that the days of Holy Week may be a favorable opportunity to strengthen your faith and adherence to the Gospel.

My thought goes finally to the young people, the sick and newlyweds. May the contemplation of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus, dear young people, make you always more firm in your Christian witness. And you, dear sick people, take from the cross of Christ daily support to overcome moments of trial and discouragement. May you, dear newlyweds, receive from the Paschal mystery, the grace to make your family a place of faithful and fruitful love.

APPEAL

I follow with attention what is happening in these hours in the Central African Republic and I wish to assure my prayers for all those who are suffering, particularly for the relatives of the victims, the injured and those who have lost their homes and have been forced to flee. I appeal to cease immediately the violence and looting, and to find a political solution to the crisis that may restore peace and harmony to that dear country, too long marked by conflict and division.

[Translation by Peter Waymel]