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Pope Francis celebrates World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly

July 23, 2023 Catholic News Agency 1
Pope Francis blesses a woman in St. Peter’s Basilica, where he presided over a special papal Mass on July 23, 2023, marking the third annual World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly. / Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Jul 23, 2023 / 07:25 am (CNA).

Calling for “a new bond between the young and old,” Pope Francis marked the third annual World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly with an intergenerational Mass Sunday in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Old age is a “blessed time,” the pope affirmed in his homily, “for it is the season to be reconciled, a time for looking tenderly at the light that has shone despite the shadows, confident in the hope that the good wheat sown by God will prevail over the weeds with which the devil has wanted to plague our hearts.”

“How much we need a new bond between young and old,” Pope Francis said, “so that the sap of those who have a long experience of life behind them will nourish the shoots of hope of those who are growing. In this fruitful exchange we can learn the beauty of life, build a fraternal society, and in the Church, be enabled to encounter one another and dialogue between tradition and the newness of the Spirit.”

Sunday marked the first time Pope Francis presided over the special papal Mass since initiating the World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly in 2021. The celebration is now held on the fourth Sunday of July — the Sunday closest to the July 26 feast of Joachim and Anne, the grandparents of Jesus.

Joining some 6,000 grandparents and older people at the liturgy were young people bound for World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal, which begins Aug. 1. Before the final blessing of the Mass, five youths and five elderly people, representing the five continents, processed to the front of the basilica. The elderly people then placed pilgrim’s crosses around the necks of the young people.

Growing together

In his homily, Pope Francis reflected on three parables of Jesus in Sunday’s Gospel from Matthew, focusing on the theme of “growing together.”

“Jesus uses parables to teach us about the kingdom of God. He recounts simple stories that touch the hearts of his listeners,” the pope observed.

“Such language, full of imagery, resembles the language that grandparents often use with their grandchildren, perhaps while holding them on their laps. In this way they pass on a wisdom important for life,” he said.

In the first parable, the farmer commands that the wheat and the weeds be allowed to grow together until harvest time.

“This image,” the Holy Father said, “helps us to see things realistically: In human history, as in each of our lives, there is a mixture of light and shadows, love and selfishness. Good and evil are even intertwined to the point of seeming inseparable.”

Pope Francis said this is a “realistic approach” that helps us to look at history avoiding both “sterile optimism” and “poisonous pessimism.”

“Christians, motivated by the hope of God, are not pessimists; nor do they naïvely live in a fairy tale, pretending not to see evil and saying that ‘all is well.’ No, Christians are realists: they know that there are wheat and weeds in the world,” he said.

Christians recognize this interplay not just in the world at large, but also in their own lives, he continued, realizing that “evil comes also from within us.”

The parable poses the question of what should be done with this situation, and the pope noted how the servants want to pull up the weeds.

“This attitude comes from good intentions, but is impulsive and aggressive,” Pope Francis warned.

“They delude themselves into thinking that they can uproot evil by their own efforts in order to save what is pure,” he continued. “Indeed, we frequently see the temptation of seeking to bring about a ‘pure society,’ a ‘pure Church,’ whereas in working to reach this purity, we risk being impatient, intransigent, even violent toward those who have fallen into error. In this way, together with the weeds we pull up the good wheat and block people from moving forward, from growing and changing.”

Instead, Jesus says the wheat and weeds have to grow together, the Holy Father emphasized.

“How beautiful is this vision of God, his way of teaching us about mercy,” the pope said. “This invites us to be patient with others, to be patient with others and — in our families, in the Church, and in society — to welcome weakness, delay, and limitations, not in order to let ourselves grow accustomed to them or excuse them, but to learn to act with respect, caring for the good wheat gently and patiently.”

In any case, it is God’s work, not ours, to purify the heart and claim the definitive victory over evil, the pope said.

He then noted how this attitude helps us to look back over our lives, especially when we’ve lived longer.

The elderly, he noted, look back over their lives and see “so many beautiful things” but also the “defeats and mistakes.”

“Yet today the Lord offers us a gentle word that invites us to accept the mystery of life with serenity and patience, to leave judgment to him, and not to live regretful and remorseful lives,” he said. “It is as if Jesus wanted to say to us: ‘Look at the good wheat that has sprouted along the path of your life and let it keep growing, entrusting everything to me, for I always forgive: in the end, the good will be stronger than the evil.’”

Pope Francis considered the second and third parables, about the mustard tree and the yeast, as images to encourage the elderly and the young to dwell together.

Scripture calls us to be vigilant so we don’t marginalize the elderly, the pope said, “so that our crowded cities do not become ‘centers of loneliness’; that politics, called to provide for the needs of the most fragile, never forgets the elderly nor allows the market to banish them as ‘unprofitable waste.’

“May we not chase after the utopias of efficiency and performance at full speed, lest we become incapable of slowing down to accompany those who struggle to keep up,” the pope urged. “Please, let us mingle and grow together.”

Three fields

Following the Mass, Pope Francis underscored this theme when he prayed the traditional midday Angelus from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, flanked by a grandmother and grandson.

Reiterating the themes from his homily, the pope warned against judging our neighbors or trying to create a perfect world by uprooting the weeds. However, he noted, there is a place where we are free to work, and that is in our hearts.

There, we must have “constant care of the delicate shoots of goodness” as well as dedicate ourselves to “identify and uproot the weeds.”

“There is a good method for this,” he said: “It is the examination of conscience, which serves precisely to verify, in the light of God, what is happening in the field of the heart.”

In summary, he posed three questions for the faithful to ponder.

“Thinking of the field of the world: Do I know how to resist the temptation to ‘bundle all the grass together,’ to sweep others aside with my judgments?” he asked. “Then, thinking of the field of the heart: Am I honest in seeking out the bad weeds in myself, and decisive in throwing them into the fire of God’s mercy?

“And, thinking of the neighbor’s field: Do I have the wisdom to see what is good without being discouraged by the limitations and limits of others?”

In his remarks after the Angelus reflection, Pope Francis mentioned the exceptionally severe monsoon season in South Korea that brought flash flooding last week, killing at least 40 people in the North Gyeongsang province.

He also lamented the ongoing suffering of people trying to migrate, especially through deserts. Referring again to the Mediterranean as a “cemetery,” he prayed that our hearts might be illuminated so that we show more solidarity. This month, migrants from sub-Saharan Africa were chased out of Tunisia to deserts along the border with Libya and Algeria. While several hundred have since been rescued, pockets of people are still stranded.

As he does in every public address, the pope reiterated his appeal for prayer for Ukraine. He noted that last night’s strike in Odessa badly damaged the historic Transfiguration Cathedral, an Orthodox cathedral in the city.

He closed with his traditional request that the faithful pray for him, but added an appeal to pray for all grandparents.


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Full Text: Pope Francis’ homily for Easter Vigil 2023 at the Vatican

April 8, 2023 Catholic News Agency 2
Pope Francis prays during the Easter Vigil Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on April 8, 2023. / Daniel Ibanez/CNA

Vatican City, Apr 8, 2023 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

Here is the full text of Pope Francis’ Easter Vigil homily, delivered on April 8 in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The night is drawing to a close and the first light of dawn is appearing upon the horizon as the women set out toward Jesus’ tomb. They make their way forward, bewildered and dismayed, their hearts overwhelmed with grief at the death that took away their Beloved. Yet upon arriving and seeing the empty tomb, they turn around and retrace their steps. They leave the tomb behind and run to the disciples to proclaim a change of course: Jesus is risen and awaits them in Galilee. In their lives, those women experienced Easter as a Pasch, a passage. They pass from walking sorrowfully towards the tomb to running back with joy to the disciples to tell them not only that the Lord is risen, but also that they are to set out immediately to reach a destination, Galilee. There they will meet the Risen Lord; that is where the resurrection leads them. The rebirth of the disciples, the resurrection of their hearts, passes through Galilee. Let us enter into this journey of the disciples from the tomb to Galilee.

The Gospel tells us that the women went “to see the tomb” (Mt 28:1). They think that they will find Jesus in the place of death and that everything is over, forever. Sometimes we too may think that the joy of our encounter with Jesus is something belonging to the past, whereas the present consists mostly of sealed tombs: tombs of disappointment, bitterness, and distrust, of the dismay of thinking that “nothing more can be done”, “things will never change”, “better to live for today”, since “there is no certainty about tomorrow”. If we are prey to sorrow, burdened by sadness, laid low by sin, embittered by failure, or troubled by some problem, we also know the bitter taste of weariness and the absence of joy.

At times, we may simply feel weary about our daily routine, tired of taking risks in a cold, hard world where only the clever and the strong seem to get ahead. At other times, we may feel helpless and discouraged before the power of evil, the conflicts that tear relationships apart, the attitudes of calculation and indifference that seem to prevail in society, the cancer of corruption … the spread of injustice, the icy winds of war. Then too, we may have come face to face with death, because it robbed us of the presence of our loved ones or because we brushed up against it in illness or a serious setback. Then it is easy to yield to disillusionment, once the wellspring of hope has dried up. In these or similar situations … our paths come to a halt before a row of tombs, and we stand there, filled with sorrow and regret, alone and powerless, repeating the question, “Why?” … The women at Easter, however, do not stand frozen before the tomb; rather, the Gospel tells us, “They went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed … and ran to announce this to his disciples” (v. 8). They bring the news that will change life and history forever: Christ is risen! (v. 6). At the same time, they remember to convey the Lord’s summons to the disciples to go to Galilee, for there they will see him (cf. v. 7). Brothers and sisters, what does it mean to go to Galilee? Two things: on the one hand, to leave the enclosure of the Upper Room and go to the land of the Gentiles (cf. Mt 4:15), to come forth from hiding and to open themselves up to mission, to leave fear behind and to set out for the future. On the other hand–-and this is very good—to return to the origins, for it was precisely in Galilee that everything began. There the Lord had met and first called the disciples. So, to go to Galilee means to return to the grace of the beginnings, to regain the memory that regenerates hope, the “memory of the future” bestowed on us by the Risen One.

This, then, is what the Pasch of the Lord accomplishes: it motivates us to move forward, to leave behind our sense of defeat, to roll away the stone of the tombs in which we often imprison our hope, and to look with confidence to the future, for Christ is risen and has changed the direction of history. Yet, to do this, the Pasch of the Lord takes us back to the grace of our own past; it brings us back to Galilee, where our love story with Jesus began. Where was that first call? In other words, it asks us to relive that moment, that situation, that experience in which we met the Lord, experienced his love, and received a radiantly new way of seeing ourselves … the world around us, and the mystery of life itself. To rise again, to start anew, to take up the journey, we always need to return to Galilee, that is, to go back, not to an abstract or ideal Jesus, but to the living, concrete, and palpable memory of our first encounter with him. Yes, brothers and sisters, to go forward we need to go back, to remember; to have hope, we need to revive our memory. This is what we are asked to do: to remember and go forward! If you recover that first love, the wonder and joy of your encounter with God, you will keep advancing. So remember, and keep moving forward. Remember, and keep moving forward.

Remember your own Galilee and walk towards it, for it is the “place” where you came to know Jesus personally, where he stopped being just another personage from a distant past, but a living person: not some distant God but the God who is at your side, who more than anyone else knows you and loves you. Brother, sister, remember Galilee, your Galilee, and your call. Remember the Word of God who at a precise moment spoke directly to you. Remember that powerful experience of the Spirit; that great joy of forgiveness experienced after that one confession; that intense and unforgettable moment of prayer; that light that was kindled within you and changed your life; that encounter, that pilgrimage. … Each of us knows the place of his or her interior resurrection, that beginning and foundation, the place where things changed. We cannot leave this in the past; the Risen Lord invites us to return there to celebrate Easter. … Remember your Galilee. Remind yourself.

Today, relive that memory. Return to that first encounter. Think back on what it was like, and reconstruct the context, time, and place. Remember the emotions and sensations; see the colors and savor the taste of it. For, you know, it is when you forgot that first love when you failed to remember that first encounter, that the dust began to settle on your heart. That is when you experienced sorrow and, like the disciples, you saw the future as empty, like a tomb with a stone sealing off all hope. Yet today, brothers and sisters, the power of Easter summons you to roll away every stone of disappointment and mistrust. The Lord is an expert in rolling back the stones of sin and fear. He wants to illuminate your sacred memory, your most beautiful memory, and to make you relive your first encounter with him. Remember and keep moving forward. Return to him and rediscover the grace of God’s resurrection within you …

Dear brothers and sisters, let us follow Jesus to Galilee, encounter him, and worship him there, where he is waiting for each of us. Let us revive the beauty of that moment when we realized that he is alive and we made him the Lord of our lives. Let us return to Galilee. … Let each of us return to his or her own Galilee, to the place where we first encountered him. Let us rise to new life!


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Pentecost 2022: Full text of Pope Francis’ homily

June 5, 2022 Catholic News Agency 1
Pope Francis delivered his homily from a wheelchair in front of the main altar of St. Peter’s Basilica on June 5, 2022. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Jun 5, 2022 / 05:30 am (CNA).

Here is the full text of Pope Francis’ homily for the Solemnity of Pentecost 2022, which was celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica on June 5, 2022.

In the final words of the Gospel we have just heard, Jesus says something that can offer us hope and make us think. He tells his disciples: “The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all I have said to you (Jn 14:26). “Everything,” “all” – these words are striking; they make us wonder: how does the Spirit give this new and full understanding to those who receive him? It is not about quantity, or an academic question: God does not want to make us encyclopedias or polymaths. No. It is a question of quality, perspective, perception. The Spirit makes us see everything in a new way, with the eyes of Jesus. I would put it this way: in the great journey of life, the Spirit teaches us where to begin, what paths to take, and how to walk.

First, where to begin. The Spirit points out to us the starting point of the spiritual life. What is it? Jesus speaks of it in the first verse of the Gospel, when he says: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (v. 15). If you love me, you will keep … this is the “logic” of the Spirit. We tend to think the exact opposite: if we keep the commandments, we will love Jesus. We tend to think that love comes from our keeping, our fidelity and our devotion. Yet the Spirit reminds us that without love as our basis, all the rest is in vain. And that love comes not so much from our abilities, but as his gift. He teaches us to love and we have to ask for this gift. The Spirit of love pours love into our hearts, he makes us feel loved and he teaches us how to love. He is the “motor” of our spiritual lives. He set it in motion within us. But if we do not begin from the Spirit, or with the Spirit or through the Spirit, we will get nowhere.

The Spirit himself reminds us of this, because he is the memory of God, the one who brings to our minds all that Jesus has said (cf. v. 26). The Holy Spirit is an active memory; he constantly rekindles the love of God in our hearts. We have experienced his presence in the forgiveness of our sins, in moments when we are filled with his peace, his freedom and his consolation. It is essential to cherish this spiritual memory. We always remember the things that go wrong; we listen to the voice within us that reminds us of our failures and failings, the voice that keeps saying: “Look, yet another failure, yet another disappointment. You will never succeed; you cannot do it.” This is a terrible thing to be told. Yet the Holy Spirit tells us something completely different. He reminds us: “Have you fallen? You are a son or daughter of God. You are a unique, elect, precious and beloved child. Even when you lose confidence in yourself, God has confidence in you!” This is the “memory” of the Spirit, what the Spirit constantly reminds us: God knows you. You may forget about God, but he does not forget about you. He remembers you always.

You, however, may well object: these are nice words, but I have problems, hurts and worries that cannot be removed by facile words of comfort! Yet that is precisely where the Holy Spirit asks you to let him in. Because he, the Consoler, is the Spirit of healing, of resurrection, who can transform the hurts burning within you. He teaches us not to harbor the memory of all those people and situations that have hurt us, but to let him purify those memories by his presence. That is what he did with the apostles and their failures. They had deserted Jesus before the Passion; Peter had denied him; Paul had persecuted Christians. We too think of our own mistakes. How many of them, and so much guilt! Left to themselves, they had no way out. Left to themselves, no. But with the Comforter, yes. Because the Spirit heals memories. How? By putting at the top of the list the thing that really matters: the memory of God’s love, his loving gaze. In this way, he sets our lives in order. He teaches us to accept one another, to forgive one another and to forgive ourselves; he teaches us to be reconciled with the past. And to set out anew.

In addition to reminding us where to begin, the Spirit teaches us what paths to take. We see this in the second reading, where Saint Paul explains that those “led by the Spirit of God” (Rom 8:14) “walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (v. 4). The Spirit, at every crossroads in our lives, suggests to us the best path to follow. It is important, then, to be able to distinguish his voice from the voice of the spirit of evil. Both speak to us: we need to learn to distinguish the voice of the Spirit, to be able to recognize that voice and follow its lead, to follow the things he tells us.

Let us consider some examples. The Holy Spirit will never tell you that on your journey everything is going just fine. He will never tell you this, because it isn’t true. No, he corrects you; he makes you weep for your sins; he pushes you to change, to fight against your lies and deceptions, even when that calls for hard work, interior struggle and sacrifice. Whereas the evil spirit, on the contrary, pushes you to always do what you want, what you find pleasing. He makes you think that you have the right to use your freedom any way you want. Then, once you are left feeling empty inside – it is bad, this feeling of emptiness inside, many of us have felt it – and when you are left feeling empty inside, he blames you and casts you down. He blames you, becomes the accuser. He throws you down, destroys you. The Holy Spirit, correcting you along the way, never leaves you lying on the ground, never. He takes you by the hand, comforts you and constantly encourages you.

Then again, whenever you feel troubled by bitterness, pessimism and negativity – how many times have we fallen into this! – then it is good to remember that these things never come from the Holy Spirit. Bitterness, pessimism, sad thoughts, these never come from the Holy Spirit. They come from evil, which is at home with negativity. It often uses this strategy: it stokes impatience and self-pity, and with self-pity the need to blame others for all our problems. It makes us edgy, suspicious, and querulous. Complaining is the language of the evil spirit; he wants to make you complain, to be gloomy, to put on a funeral face. The Holy Spirit on the other hand urges us never to lose heart and always to start over again. He always encourages you to get up. He takes you by the hand and says: “Get up!” How do we do that? By jumping right in, without waiting for someone else. And by spreading hope and joy, not complaints; never envying others, never — envy is the door through which the evil spirit enters. The Bible tells us this: by the envy of the devil, evil entered the world. So never be envious! — but the Holy Spirit brings you goodness; he leads you to rejoice in the success of others.

The Holy Spirit is practical, he is not an idealist. He wants us to concentrate on the here and now, because the time and place in which we find ourselves are themselves grace-filled. These are concrete times and places of grace, here and now. That is where the Holy Spirit is leading us. The spirit of evil, however, would pull us away from the here and now, and put us somewhere else. Often he anchors us to the past: to our regrets, our nostalgia, our disappointments. Or else he points us to the future, fueling our fears, illusions and false hopes. But not the Holy Spirit. The Spirit leads us to love, concretely, here and now, not an ideal world or an ideal Church, an ideal religious congregation, but the real ones, as they are, seen in broad light of day, with transparency and simplicity. How very different from the evil one, who foments gossip and idle chatter. Idle chatter is a nasty habit; it destroys a person’s identity.

The Holy Spirit wants us to be together; he makes us Church and today – here is the third and final aspect – he teaches the Church how to walk. The disciples were cowering in the Upper Room; the Spirit then came down and made them go forth. Without the Spirit, they were alone, by themselves, huddled together. With the Spirit, they were open to all. In every age, the Spirit overturns our preconceived notions and opens us to his newness. God, the Spirit, is always new! He constantly teaches the Church the vital importance of going forth, impelled to proclaim the Gospel. The importance of our being, not a secure sheepfold, but an open pasture where all can graze on God’s beauty. He teaches us to be an open house without walls of division. The worldly spirit drives us to concentrate on our own problems and interests, on our need to appear relevant, on our strenuous defense of the nation or group to which we belong. That is not the way of the Holy Spirit. He invites us to forget ourselves and to open our hearts to all. In that way, he makes the Church grow young. We need to remember this: the Spirit rejuvenates the Church. Not us and our efforts to dress her up a bit. For the Church cannot be “programmed” and every effort at “modernization” is not enough. The Spirit liberates us from obsession with emergencies. He beckons us to walk his paths, ever ancient and ever new, the paths of witness, poverty and mission, and in this way, he sets us free from ourselves and sends us forth into the world.

And finally, oddly, the Holy Spirit is the author of division, of ruckus, of a certain disorder. Think of the morning of Pentecost: he is the author… he creates division of languages and attitudes… it was a ruckus, that! Yet at the same time, he is the author of harmony. He divides with the variety of charisms, but it is a false division, because true division is part of harmony. He creates division with charisms and he creates harmony with all this division. This is the richness of the Church.

Brothers and sisters, let us sit at the school of the Holy Spirit, so that he can teach us all things. Let us invoke him each day, so that he can remind us to make God’s gaze upon us our starting point, to make decisions by listening to his voice, and to journey together as Church, docile to him and open to the world. Amen.