Today the Holy Father visits Assisi on the feast day of St.
Francis. He celebrated an outdoor Mass in St. Francis Square, attended by
several thousand people. Below is the full text of Pope Francis’ homily, as
translated by Vatican Radio.
give you thanks, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for you have hidden these
things from the wise and understanding, and revealed them to babes” (Mt 11:25).
and all good to each and every one of you! With this Franciscan greeting I
thank you for being here, in this Square so full of history and faith, to pray
I too have come, like countless other pilgrims, to give thanks to the Father for
all that he wished to reveal to one of the “little ones” mentioned in today’s
Gospel: Francis, the son of a wealthy merchant of Assisi. His encounter with
Jesus led him to strip himself of an easy and carefree life in order to espouse
“Lady Poverty” and to live as a true son of our heavenly Father. This decision
of Saint Francis was a radical way of imitating Christ: he clothed himself
anew, putting on Christ, who, though he was rich, became poor in order to make
us rich by his poverty (cf. 2 Cor 8:9). In all of Francis’ life, love for the
poor and the imitation of Christ in his poverty were inseparably united, like
the two sides of a coin.
does Saint Francis’s witness tell us today? What does he have to say to us, not
merely with words that is easy enough but by his life?
His first and most essential witness is this: that being a Christian means
having a living relationship with the person of Jesus; it means putting on
Christ, being conformed to him.
did Francis’s journey to Christ begin? It began with the gaze of the crucified
Jesus. With letting Jesus look at us at the very moment that he gives his life
for us and draws us to himself. Francis experienced this in a special way in
the Church of San Damiano, as he prayed before the cross which I too will have
an opportunity to venerate. On that cross, Jesus is depicted not as dead, but
alive! Blood is flowing from his wounded hands, feet and side, but that blood
speaks of life. Jesus’ eyes are not closed but open, wide open: he looks at us
in a way that touches our hearts. The cross does not speak to us about defeat
and failure; paradoxically, it speaks to us about a death which is life, a
death which gives life, for it speaks to us of love, the love of God incarnate,
a love which does not die, but triumphs over evil and death. When we let the
crucified Jesus gaze upon us, we are re-created, we become “a new creation”.
Everything else starts with this: the experience of transforming grace, the
experience of being loved for no merits of our own, in spite of our being
sinners. That is why Saint Francis could say with Saint Paul: “Far be it for me
to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal 6:14).
turn to you, Francis, and we ask you: Teach us to remain before the cross, to
let the crucified Christ gaze upon us, to let ourselves be forgiven, and
recreated by his love.
In today’s Gospel we heard these words: “Come to me, all who labour and are
heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am gentle and lowly in heart” (Mt 11:28-29).
is the second witness that Francis gives us: that everyone who follows Christ
receives true peace, the peace that Christ alone can give, a peace which the
world cannot give. Many people, when they think of Saint Francis, think of
peace; very few people however go deeper. What is the peace which Francis
received, experienced and lived, and which he passes on to us? It is the peace
of Christ, which is born of the greatest love of all, the love of the cross. It
is the peace which the Risen Jesus gave to his disciples when he stood in their
midst and said: “Peace be with you!”, and in saying this, he showed them his
wounded hands and his pierced side (cf. Jn 20:19-20).
peace is not something saccharine. Hardly! That is not the real Saint Francis!
Nor is it a kind of pantheistic harmony with forces of the cosmos… That is not
Franciscan either; it is a notion some people have invented! The peace of Saint
Francis is the peace of Christ, and it is found by those who “take up” their
“yoke”, namely, Christ’s commandment: Love one another as I have loved you (cf.
Jn 13:34; 15:12). This yoke cannot be borne with arrogance, presumption or
pride, but only with meekness and humbleness of heart.
turn to you, Francis, and we ask you: Teach us to be “instruments of peace”, of
that peace which has its source in God, the peace which Jesus has brought us.
“Praised may you be, Most High, All-powerful God, good Lord… by all your
creatures.” This is the beginning of Saint Francis’s Canticle. Love for all
creation, for its harmony. Saint Francis of Assisi bears witness to the need to
respect all that God has created, and that men and women are called to
safeguard and protect, but above all he bears witness to respect and love for
every human being. God created the world to be a place where harmony and peace
can flourish. Harmony and peace! Francis was a man of harmony and peace. From
this City of Peace, I repeat with all the strength and the meekness of love:
Let us respect creation, let us not be instruments of destruction! Let us
respect each human being. May there be an end to armed conflicts which cover
the earth with blood; may the clash of arms be silenced; and everywhere may
hatred yield to love, injury to pardon, and discord to unity. Let us listen to
the cry of all those who are weeping, who are suffering and who are dying
because of violence, terrorism or war, in the Holy Land, so dear to Saint
Francis, in Syria, throughout the Middle East and everywhere in the world.
turn to you, Francis, and we ask you: Obtain for us God’s gift of harmony and
peace in this our world!
I cannot forget the fact that today Italy celebrates Saint Francis as her
patron saint. The traditional offering of oil for the votive lamp, which this
year is given by the Region of Umbria, is an expression of this. Let us pray
for Italy, that everyone will always work for the common good, and look more to
what unites us, rather than what divides us.
I make my own the prayer of Saint Francis for Assisi, for Italy and for
the world: “I pray to you, Lord Jesus Christ, Father of mercies: Do not look
upon our ingratitude, but always keep in mind the surpassing goodness which you
have shown to this City. Grant that it may always be the home of men and women
who know you in truth and who glorify your most holy and glorious name, now and
for all ages. Amen.”