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Dear brothers and sisters, hello!
In today’s Gospel, Jesus insists on the conditions of being his disciples: Do not oppose anything to your love for him, carry your cross and follow him. Many people, in fact, approached Jesus. They wanted to be his disciples; this especially happened after some miraculous sign, which confirmed him as the Messiah, the King of Israel. But Jesus does not want to delude anyone. He knows well what awaits him at Jerusalem, what way the Father wants him to go. It is the way of the cross, for the sacrifice of himself for the forgiveness of our sins. Following Jesus does not mean being a member of some triumphant entourage! It means sharing his merciful love, entering into his great work of mercy for each man and for all men. Jesus’ work is simply a work a mercy, of forgiveness, of love! Jesus is so merciful! And this universal pardon, this universal mercy, passes through the cross. Jesus does not to do this work alone: he wants to involve us too in the mission that the Father has given him. After the resurrection he will say to his disciples: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you … Those whose sins you forgive, they will be forgiven” (John 20:21, 22). The disciple of Jesus gives up all he has, all his goods, because he has found in him the greatest Good from which every other good receives its full value and meaning: family bonds, other relationships, work, cultural and economic goods and so on… The Christian detaches himself from everything and rediscovers all of it in the logic of the Gospel, the logic of love and service.
To explain this demand Jesus uses two parables: that of the tower that must be built and that of the king who goes to war. Jesus states in the second parable: “What king, going to war against another king, does not first sit down and determine whether he cannot defeat with 10,000 men the one who is marching on him with 20,000? If he cannot, while the other is still far away, he sends messengers to ask for peace” (Luke 14:31-32). Here Jesus does not intend to address the topic of war. It is only a parable. However, at the present time when we are fervently praying for peace, this Word of the Lord strikes at our heart and the substance of it tells us: there is a deeper war that all of us must fight! It is the tough and courageous decision to reject evil and its seductions and to choose the good, ready to pay personally. This profound war of fighting evil is following Christ! This is carrying our cross! What point is there to fighting wars, many wars, if you are incapable of fighting this deeper war against evil? It is pointless! It is unacceptable… Among other things this war against evil entails saying no to fratricidal hatred and the lies that serve it; saying no to violence in all its forms; saying no to the proliferation of weapons and their illegal trafficking. There is so much! So much! And the doubt always remains: that war there, that other one there – because there are wars everywhere – is it truly a war over real problems or is it a commercial war to sell illegal weapons? These are the enemies to fight, unified and with consistency, with no other interests at heart but those of peace and the common good.
Dear brothers and sisters, today we also remember the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, a feast especially dear to the Eastern Churches. And all of us, now, we can send a kind greeting to all our brothers and sisters, bishops and monks of the Eastern Churches, Orthodox and Catholic: a kind greeting! Jesus is the sun. Mary is the dawn that announces his rising. Yesterday evening we held a vigil entrusting to Mary’s intercession our prayer for peace in the world, especially in Syria and in the whole Middle East. Let us invoke Mary now as Queen of Peace. Queen of Peace pray for us! Queen of Peace pray for us!
[Following the recitation of the Angelus the Holy Father greeted those present:]
I would like to thank everyone who, in various ways, joined in the Vigil of Prayer and Fasting yesterday evening. I thank the many people who united the offering of their sufferings. I express my gratitude to the civil authorities, as well as to the members of other Christian communities and of other religions, and to men and women of good will who have undertaken, on this occasion, periods of prayer, fasting and reflection.
But the task remains: we move forward with prayer and works of peace. I invite you to continue to pray so that the violence and devastation in Syria may cease immediately and that a renewed effort be undertaken to achieve a just solution to this fratricidal conflict. Let us pray also for other countries in the Middle East, in particular for Lebanon, that it may find its hoped-for stability and continue to be a model of peaceful co-existence; for Iraq, that sectarian violence may give way to reconciliation; and that the peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians may proceed with determination and courage. Finally, let us pray for Egypt, that all Egyptians, Muslims and Christians, may commit themselves to build up together a society dedicated to the good of the whole population.
[The two preceding paragraphs are from the official Vatican English translation of the Holy Father’s remarks.]
With joy we recall that yesterday, in Rovigo, Maria Bolognesi was beatified, a faithful laywoman of that place, who was born in 1924 and died in 1980. She spent her whole life in the service of others, especially the poor and sick, enduring great sufferings in profound union with the passion of Christ. Let us thank God for her witness to the Gospel!
I greet with affection all the pilgrims present, all of you! In particular I greet the faithful of the Patriarchate of Venice, led by the Patriarch; the alumni and alumnae of Figlie di Maria Ausiliatrice (Daughters of Mary Help [of Christians]); and the participants in the “Campaign of Our Lady Pilgrim of Schoenstatt.”
I greet the faithful of Carcare, Bitonto, Sciacca, Nocera Superiore, and of the Diocese of Acerra; the Compagnia delle Sorelle del Santo Rosario di Villa Pitignano (Society of Sisters of the Holy Rosary of Villa Pitignano); the young people of Torano Nuovo, Martignano, Tencarola and Carmignano, and the Sorelle della Misericordia di Verona (Sisters of Mercy of Verona).
I greet the choir of San Giovanni Ilarione, the “Pace e Gioia” (Peace and Joy) associations of Santa Vittoria d’Alba and Calima di Orzinuovi, and the blood donors of Cimolais.
I wish everyone a good Sunday. Have a good lunch and goodbye.
[Translation by Joseph G Trabbic]