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Posted on 12/14/2017 02:00 AM (vatican.va)
ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
TO NEW NON-RESIDENT AMBASSADORS ACCREDITED TO THE HOLY SEE: YEMEN,
NEW ZEALAND, SWAZILAND, AZERBAIJAN, CHAD,
LIECHTENSTEIN AND INDIA
Thursday, 14 December 2017
I extend a warm welcome to all of you for this presentation of the Letters accrediting you as Ambassadors Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Holy See on the part of your respective countries: Yemen, New Zealand, Swaziland, Azerbaijan, Chad, Liechtenstein and India. I would ask you to convey to the Heads of State of your respective countries my sentiments of appreciation and esteem, and to assure them of my prayers for them and the people they serve.
At the beginning of your new mission, I am conscious of the diverse countries you represent, and of the various cultural and religious traditions that characterize the history of each of your nations. This gives me the opportunity to emphasize the positive and constructive role that such diversity plays in the concert of nations. The international community faces a series of complex threats to the sustainability of the environment and of the world’s social and human ecology, as well as risks to peace and concord stemming from violent fundamentalist ideologies and regional conflicts, which often appear under the guise of opposing interests and values. Yet it is important to remember that the diversity of the human family is not itself a cause of these challenges to peaceful coexistence. Indeed the centrifugal forces that would drive peoples apart are not found in their differences but in the failure to set out on the path of dialogue and understanding as the most effective means of responding to these challenges.
Your very presence here is a reminder of the key role that dialogue plays in enabling diversity to be lived in an authentic and mutually enhancing way in our increasingly globalized society. Respectful communication leads to cooperation, especially in fostering reconciliation where it is most needed. This cooperation in turn assists the progress of that solidarity which is the condition for the growth of justice and due respect for the dignity, rights and aspirations of all. A commitment to dialogue and cooperation must be the hallmark of every institution of the international community, as well as of every national and local institution, for all are charged with the pursuit of the common good.
The promotion of dialogue, reconciliation and cooperation cannot be taken for granted. The delicate art of diplomacy and the arduous craft of nation-building need to be learned afresh with each new generation. We share the collective responsibility to educate our young people about the importance of these principles that sustain the social order. Passing this precious legacy on to our children and grandchildren will not only secure a peaceful and prosperous future but will also meet the demands of intergenerational justice and of that integral human development that is the right of every man, woman and child.
Dear Ambassadors, as you take up your high responsibilities in the service of your nations, I assure you of the support of the various offices of the Holy See. I offer you my prayerful best wishes for your important work, and upon you, your families, and all your fellow citizens, I willingly invoke an abundance of divine blessings.
Posted on 12/13/2017 07:17 AM (Marriage Unique for a Reason)
On January 8, 2018, MUR will launch the audio storytelling podcast “Made for Love,” a podcast about real people living out the call to love in their lives. The podcast will explore the Church’s teachings on marriage, sexuality, and the four themes of the Marriage: Unique for a Reason project (sexual difference, children, religious liberty, […]
Posted on 12/13/2017 02:00 AM (vatican.va)
Wednesday, 13 December 2017
Dear Brothers and Sisters: Our continuing catechesis on the Eucharist today centres on the importance of Sunday Mass. As Christians, we celebrate the Eucharist in order to encounter the Lord, to hear his word, eat at his table and, by his grace to fulfil our mission in the world as members of his Mystical Body the Church. As the day of the resurrection and the pentecostal outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Sunday is the Christian holy day par excellence. How could we pass this day without encountering the Lord? Sadly, in many secularized societies, we have lost the sense of Sunday. The Second Vatican Council asked us to celebrate the Lord’s Day as a day of joy and rest from servile work, precisely as a sign of our dignity as children of God. Each Sunday is meant to be a foretaste of the eternal bliss and repose to which we are called and which we share, even now, in Holy Communion. In the end, we go to Mass not to give something to God, but to receive from him the grace and strength to remain faithful to his word, to follow his commandments and, through his living presence within us, to be witnesses of his goodness and love before the world.
Saluto i partecipanti al Forum Internazionale delle ONG di ispirazione cattolica, convenuti a Roma in questi giorni. Esprimo vivo apprezzamento per i vostri sforzi di portare la luce del Vangelo alle varie periferie del nostro mondo, per difendere la dignità dell’uomo, per promuovere lo sviluppo integrale dei popoli, e per venire incontro ai bisogni materiali e spirituali di tanti membri della nostra famiglia umana. Vi incoraggio a lavorare sempre in uno spirito di comunione e collaborazione con le altre ONG cattoliche ed anche con i rappresentanti della Santa Sede, quale segno dell’impegno della Chiesa nella costruzione di un mondo sempre più giusto e solidale. Con l’augurio che queste giornate di riflessione e scambio siano fruttuose per le vostre attività, vi imparto di cuore la mia Benedizione Apostolica.
Saluto inoltre i pellegrini di lingua inglese presenti all’Udienza odierna, specialmente quelli provenienti da Australia, Indonesia, India, Giappone e Stati Uniti d’America. Su tutti voi e sulle vostre famiglie invoco la gioia e la pace del Signore nostro Gesù Cristo.
I am pleased to greet the participants in the 2017 Forum of Catholic-inspired Non-Governmental Organizations meeting in Rome during these days. I express my deep appreciation for your efforts to bring the light of the Gospel to the various peripheries of our world, in order to defend human dignity, to promote the integral development of peoples, and to meet the material and spiritual needs of so many members of our human family. I encourage you to work always in a spirit of communion and cooperation with other Catholic NGOs and with the representatives of the Holy See, as an expression of the Church’s commitment to the building of a more just and fraternal world. With prayerful good wishes that these days of reflection and discussion will prove fruitful for your work, I cordially impart to all of you my Apostolic Blessing.
I also greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, particularly the groups from Australia, Indonesia, India, Japan and the United States of America. Upon you and your families I invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Posted on 12/7/2017 02:45 AM (vatican.va)
ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
TO A DELEGATION OF THE TAIWAN NATIONAL COUNCIL OF CHURCHES
Thursday, 7 December 2017
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I offer a cordial greeting to you, the officers and members of the National Council of Churches of Taiwan, and I thank you for your kind words of greeting.
As you know, I have just returned from a visit to Myanmar and Bangladesh. There I was thus able to experience the vitality and the enterprise that mark the peoples of Asia, but also the suffering face of a humanity all too often deprived of material prosperity and social well-being. There are many areas in which we, as Christians, are called to work together to promote the dignity of each human being and to support those who are less fortunate than ourselves. I am encouraged by what you have told me: “Without love, peace is not truly peace; without love, the world descends into chaos”. As Christians, we are bound above all to practise the Lord’s command: “Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples” (Jn 13:34-35). The love of God, made incarnate in life, is thus our royal road, and the basis of our common responsibility before the world to account for the hope that is in us (cf. 1 Pet 3:15).
The Catholic Church, through the Chinese Regional Bishops’ Conference, has been committed, from the establishment of the National Council of Churches of Taiwan in 1991, to promoting greater unity between believers in the Lord. The strengthening of relations between the Christian confessions, and the shared proclamation of Jesus, also through works of charity and educational projects aimed at the young, will prove beneficial to society as a whole. Building a better future for all requires, in a particular way, educating the younger generations in the art of dialogue, so that they can become protagonists of a much-needed culture of harmony and reconciliation. This will encourage them to pursue, with God’s help, the path that leads from conflict to communion, a path that has shown itself so fruitful in the ecumenical journey.
I thank each of you for your commitment to pursuing this path by strengthening fraternity and cooperation among your communities. Let us continue to journey together in the primacy of charity towards that day when Jesus’ prayer will be realized: “that they may all be one… so that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21). I ask God to bless you, your dear ones and your communities, and I ask you to remember me in your own prayers, and I invite you to recite the Lord’s Prayer together.
[Recital of the Lord’s Prayer]
Posted on 12/7/2017 01:30 AM (vatican.va)
ADDRESS OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
TO A DELEGATION OF THE LUTHERAN WORLD FEDERATION
Thursday, 7 December 2017
Dear Archbishop Musa,
I extend a warm greeting to you, to Dr. Junge, the General Secretary, to the Vice Presidents and to the Delegates of the Lutheran World Federation. In expressing gratitude for your kind words, I offer my congratulations on your recent appointment as President.
Today we can join in commemorating, as Scripture teaches, all that the Lord has accomplished in our midst (cf. Ps 77:12-13). We think in particular of the ecumenically significant moments of the recently-concluded Year that marked the fifth centenary of the Reformation. I am especially happy to recall 31 October 2016, when we prayed at Lund, where the Lutheran World Federation was founded. It was important for us to meet first and foremost in prayer, for the gift of unity among believers takes root and blossoms not as a result of human projects but by the grace of God. Only by praying can we care for one another. Prayer purifies and strengthens us; it illumines our path and enables us to move forward. Prayer is like the fuel of our journey towards full unity. Indeed, the love of the Lord, which we experience in prayer, sets in motion the charity that draws us closer; it is the source of our patient expectation, the motive of our efforts at reconciliation, and the power that enables us to go forward together. Prayer is in fact “the soul of ecumenical renewal and the yearning for unity”, the “basis and support” of all dialogue (cf. Ut Unum Sint, 28).
By praying, we can constantly see one another in the right perspective, that of God our Father, whose loving gaze rests on each of us, without preferences or distinctions. In the Spirit of Jesus, in whom we pray, we realize that we are brothers and sisters. This must be our continual starting point. From it, we can also look to the past and thank God that the painful divisions that kept us distant and in conflict for centuries, have brought us in recent decades to a journey of communion, the path of ecumenism awakened by the Holy Spirit. This has led us to abandon old biases like those having to do with Martin Luther and the state of the Catholic Church in that period. A significant contribution has been made in this regard by the dialogue between the Lutheran World Federation and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, initiated in 1967. Today, at a distance of fifty years, we can recall that dialogue with gratitude, and acknowledge certain particularly important texts, such as the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification and, most recently, From Conflict to Communion.
With a purified memory, we can now look with confidence to a future unburdened by past conflicts and preconceptions, a future whose only debt is that of mutual love (cf. Rom 13:8), a future which calls us to discern the gifts coming from the different confessional traditions and to receive them as a common patrimony. Prior to all disagreements, differences and past hurts, there is the present, foundational and permanent reality of our baptism, which has made us children of God and brothers and sisters of one another. Henceforth we will never again allow ourselves to be adversaries or rivals. Although the past cannot be changed, the future challenges us: we can no longer refuse to seek and foster greater communion in charity and faith.
We are also called to be on the watch against the temptation of halting along the way. In the spiritual life, as in ecclesial life, whenever we halt, we are always turning back. To be self-content, to pause out of fear, indolence, weariness or convenience in the midst of our journey to the Lord in the company of our brothers and sisters, is to refuse his invitation. In order to advance together towards him, fine ideas are not enough; there is a need for concrete steps and outstretched hands. That means, above all, spending ourselves in charity, looking to the poor and the least of the Lord's brethren (cf. Mt 25:40): they represent precious signposts to us along our way. It will do us good to touch their wounds with the healing power of Jesus’ presence and with the balm of our service.
By this simple, exemplary and radical way of acting, we are called, today in particular, to proclaim the Gospel, the priority of our Christian life in the world. Reconciled unity between Christians is an indispensable part of that proclamation: “How indeed can we proclaim the Gospel of reconciliation without at the same time being committed to working for reconciliation between Christians?” (Ut Unum Sint, 98). Along the way, we are spurred on by the example of all those who have suffered for the name of Jesus and are already fully reconciled in his Paschal victory. How many there are, even in our own day, who are suffering for their witness to Jesus! Their heroism, shown in meekness and peace, urgently summons us to an ever more authentic fraternity.
Dear Brother, I cordially invoke upon you every blessing of the Lord. I ask the Holy Spirit, who unites what is divided, to pour out upon us his gifts of wisdom, meekness and courage. And I ask each one of you here present, please, to pray for me. Thank you.
Posted on 12/6/2017 02:00 AM (vatican.va)
Wednesday, 6 December 2017
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today I would like to speak about the Apostolic Journey that I made in recent days in Myanmar and Bangladesh. It was a great gift from God, and therefore I thank him for everything, especially for the encounters I was able to have. I renew the expression of my gratitude to the Authorities of the two Countries and the respective Bishops, for all their work of preparation and for the welcome accorded to me and to my co-workers. I would like to offer a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to the Burmese people and to the Bangladeshi people, who showed me so much faith and so much affection. Thank you!
For the first time a Successor of Peter has visited Myanmar, and this occurred shortly after diplomatic relations were established between this Country and the Holy See.
I wished, in this case too, to express the closeness of Christ and of the Church to a people that has suffered as a result of conflict and repression, and which now is slowly moving toward a new situation of freedom and peace. A people in whom the Buddhist religion is deeply rooted, with its spiritual and ethical principles, and among whom Christians are present as a small flock and as leaven of the Kingdom of God. I had the joy of confirming this vibrant and fervent Church in the faith and in communion, at the meeting with the Bishops of the Country and during the two Eucharistic celebrations. The first was held in the great sports ground in the centre of Yangon, and that day’s Gospel reading recalled that persecution due to faith in Jesus is common for his disciples, as an occasion to bear witness, however, “not a hair of their head will perish” (cf. Lk 21:12-19). The second Mass, the last event of my visit in Myanmar, was dedicated to young people: a sign of hope and a special gift of the Virgin Mary, in the cathedral that bears her name. In the faces of those young people, full of joy, I have seen the future of Asia: a future which will not be that of those who build weapons, but of those who sow fraternity. And also as a sign of hope, I blessed the cornerstones of 16 churches, of the seminary and of the nunciature: 18!
In addition to the Catholic community, I was able to meet the Authorities of Myanmar, encouraging the Country’s peacebuilding effort and hoping that all the different components of the nation, none excluded, may cooperate in this process with mutual respect. In this spirit I wished to meet the representatives of the various religious communities present in the Country. In particular, to the Supreme Council of Buddhist Monks, I manifested the Church’s esteem for their ancient spiritual tradition, and my confidence that Christians and Buddhists together can join in helping people to love God and neighbour, rejecting all violence and countering evil with good.
After leaving Myanmar, I went to Bangladesh where, first of all I honoured the martyrs of the fight for Independence and the “Father of the Nation”. The population of Bangladesh is mainly Muslim, and thus my visit — in the footsteps of Blessed Paul vi and of Saint John Paul ii — marked a further step in favour of respect and dialogue between Christianity and Islam.
To the Country’s Authorities I recalled that from the beginning, the Holy See has supported the will of the Bangladeshi people to establish an independent nation, including the requirement that religious freedom always be safeguarded within it. In particular, I wished to express solidarity with Bangladesh in its commitment to help the great influx of Rohingya refugees that has poured into its territory, where the population density is already among the highest in the world.
The Mass celebrated in a historical park in Dhaka was enriched by the Ordination of 16 priests, and this was one of the most significant and joyful events of the journey. In fact, in Bangladesh and in Myanmar as in other Southeast Asian Countries, thanks be to God there is no shortage of vocations, a sign of a living community, wherein resonates the voice of the Lord who calls them to follow him. I shared this joy with the Bishops of Bangladesh, and I encouraged them in their generous work for families, for the poor, for education, for dialogue and social peace. And I shared this joy with so many of the Country’s priests, consecrated women and men, as well as with seminarians and novices, in whom I saw the seeds of the Church in that land.
In Dhaka we experienced a profound moment of interreligious and ecumenical dialogue, which afforded me the opportunity to emphasize openness of heart as the foundation of a culture of encounter, harmony and of peace.
In addition, I visited the “Mother Teresa House”, where the Saint resided when she was in that city, and which welcomes innumerable orphans and people with disabilities. There, according to their charism, the Sisters live each day the prayer of adoration and service to the poor and suffering Christ. And their lips are never without a smile: nuns who pray a great deal, who serve the suffering, and do this constantly with a smile. It is a beautiful testimony. I thank these little Sisters very much.
The last event with the young people of Bangladesh was rich in testimony, song and dance. How well these Bangladeshi people dance! They really know how to dance! It was a celebration that manifested the joy of the Gospel received by that culture; a joy made fruitful by the sacrifices of many missionaries, many catechists and Christian parents. Also present at the encounter were young Muslims and those of other religions: a sign of hope for Bangladesh, for Asia and for the entire world.
My thoughts now go to Jerusalem. In this regard, I cannot but express my deep concern for the situation that has arisen in recent days; and, at the same time, I cannot but launch a heartfelt appeal that everyone’s effort respect the status quo of the city, in conformity with the pertinent United Nations Resolutions.
Jerusalem is a unique city, sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims, in which the Holy Places are venerated by the respective religions, and which has a special vocation for peace.
I pray the Lord that this identity may be preserved and strengthened to the benefit of the Holy Land, of the Middle East and of the entire world, and that wisdom and prudence prevail, in order to prevent additional new elements of tension in a global panorama that is already convulsed and marked by many cruel conflicts.
* * *
I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, particularly the groups from Wales, Denmark, Nigeria and the United States of America. I offer a particular greeting to the members of the World Youth Alliance and the musical group Up with People. Upon all of you, and your families, I invoke joy and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.
I joyfully greet and welcome the group of Syro-Iraqi refugees residing in Italy, as well as the priests, nuns and lay people from Myanmar and Bangladesh who are present here to reciprocate my visit to their countries of origin.
I offer a special thought to young people, to the sick and to newlyweds. Today is the memorial of Saint Nicholas of Bari. Dear young people, may you place the search for God and for his love above all else; dear sick people, may the example of the saints be of help and comfort to you at the moment of your greatest need; and may you, dear newlyweds, with the grace of God, make your union deeper and more steadfast each day.
To a Palestinian Delegation, hosted by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (6 December 2017)
Posted on 12/6/2017 01:00 AM (vatican.va)
GREETING OF THE HOLY FATHER
TO A PALESTINIAN DELEGATION, HOSTED BY THE PONTIFICAL COUNCIL
FOR INTERRELIGIOUS DIALOGUE
Room adjacent to Paul VI Audience Hall
Wednesday, 6 December 2017
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am happy to receive your Delegation, hosted by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. You have come to the Vatican to explore ways for creating a permanent Working Group for dialogue between the Council and the Palestinian Commission for Interreligious Dialogue.
For the Catholic Church, it is always a joy to build bridges of dialogue with communities, individuals and organizations. It is certainly a particular joy to do so with Palestinian religious and intellectual leaders.
The Holy Land is for us Christians the land par excellence of dialogue between God and mankind. The culmination of that dialogue took place in Nazareth between the Angel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary, an event to which the Koran also makes reference.
That dialogue continues in a unique way between Jesus and his people, in representation of humanity as a whole. Indeed, Jesus is the Word of God and his speaking to men and women is, in the words of one Muslim exponent, “the dialogue of God with humanity”.
Dialogue takes place at every level: with ourselves through reflection and prayer, in our families, in our religious communities, between different religious communities, and also in civil society. The primary condition of that dialogue is reciprocal respect and a commitment to strengthening that respect, for the sake of recognizing the rights of all people, wherever they happen to be. Dialogue is the source of greater mutual knowledge, greater mutual esteem and cooperation in the pursuit of the common good, and generous cooperation in ensuring that those in need receive all necessary assistance.
It is my hope that your consultations may help to open a space of sincere dialogue for the benefit of all the members of Palestinian society, and the Christian community in particular, given its small numbers and the challenges it faces, especially with regard to emigration.
I am conscious of the kindness that the Authorities of the State of Palestine, particularly President Mahmoud Abbas, have shown to the Christian community, acknowledging its place and its role in Palestinian society.
Upon all of you I invoke abundant blessings, and I offer my prayerful good wishes of peace and prosperity for the Palestinian people, for the Holy Land, and for the entire Middle East, which is so dear to me and to the Catholic Church.
Posted on 12/5/2017 12:54 PM (Marriage Unique for a Reason)
Today the USCCB gave this press release about the Masterpiece Cakeshop case that was heard today at the U.S. Supreme Court: USCCB Chairmen Comment on Supreme Court’s Oral Arguments on Religious Freedom of Creative Professionals December 5, 2017 WASHINGTON—Today, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights […]
Posted on 12/3/2017 04:00 AM (vatican.va)
Saint Peter's Square
First Advent Sunday, 3 December 2017
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Today we begin the journey of Advent, which will culminate in Christmas. Advent is the time we are given to welcome the Lord who comes to encounter us, and also to verify our longing for God, to look forward and prepare ourselves for Christ’s return. He will return to us in the celebration of Christmas, when we will remember his historic coming in the humility of the human condition; but he enters our heart each time we are willing to receive him; and he will come again at the end of time to “judge the living and the dead”. Therefore, we must always be vigilant and await the Lord with the hope of encountering him. Today’s liturgy introduces us precisely to this evocative theme of vigilance and waiting.
In the Gospel (cf. Mk 13:33-37) Jesus exhorts us to take heed and watch, so as to be ready to welcome him at the moment of his return. He tells us: “Take heed, watch ... for you do not know when the time will come.... Watch therefore ... lest he come suddenly and find you asleep” (vv. 33-37).
The person who takes heed is the one who, amid the worldly din, does not let himself be overwhelmed by distraction or superficiality, but lives in a full and conscious way, with concern first and foremost for others. With this manner we become aware of the tears and the needs of neighbours and we can also understand their human and spiritual strengths and qualities. The heedful person then also turns toward the world, seeking to counter the indifference and cruelty in it, and taking delight in its beautiful treasures which also exist and are to be safeguarded. It is a matter of having an understanding gaze so as to recognize both the misery and poverty of individuals and of society, and to recognize the richness hidden in little everyday things, precisely there where the Lord has placed us.
The watchful person is the one who accepts the invitation to keep watch, that is, not to let himself be overpowered by the listlessness of discouragement, by the lack of hope, by disappointment; and at the same time it wards off the allure of the many vanities with which the world is brimming and for which, now and then, time and personal and familial peace is sacrificed. It is the painful experience of the people of Israel, recounted by the Prophet Isaiah: God seemed to have let his people err from his ways (cf. 63:17), but this was a result of the unfaithfulness of the people themselves (cf. 64:4b). We too often find ourselves in this situation of unfaithfulness to the call of the Lord: He shows us the good path, the way of faith, the way of love, but we seek our happiness elsewhere.
Being attentive and watchful are prerequisites so as not to continue to “err from the Lord’s ways”, lost in our sins and in our unfaithfulness; being attentive and being watchful are the conditions that allow God to permeate our existence, in order to restore meaning and value to it with his presence full of goodness and tenderness. May Mary Most Holy, role model for awaiting God and icon of watchfulness, lead us to her son Jesus, rekindling our love for him.
After the Angelus:
Dear brothers and sisters, last night I returned from my Apostolic Journey to Myanmar and Bangladesh. I thank all those who accompanied me with prayer, and I invite you to join me in rendering thanks to the Lord, who allowed me to meet those populations, in particular the Catholic communities, and to be edified by their witness. The memory of so many faces, tried by life but noble and smiling, is inscribed within me. I carry all of them in my heart and prayers. Many thanks to the people of Myanmar and to the people of Bangladesh!
In my prayers I also remember in a particular way the people of Honduras, that they may overcome the current moment of difficulty in a peaceful way.
I address my greeting to you, people of Rome and pilgrims present here. In particular I greet the faithful from Bratislava, Slovakia, and from Ludwigshafen, Germany.
I greet the group from Preganziol, Treviso, and the young confirmands from Mestrino, Padua; as well as the Romanian community that lives in Italy and that today is celebrating Romania’s national holiday.
I wish everyone a happy Sunday and a good Advent journey. Please, do not forget to pray for me. Enjoy your lunch. Arrivederci!
Posted on 12/3/2017 00:00 AM (vatican.va)
MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE FRANCIS
FOR THE 2018 WORLD DAY OF VOCATIONS
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
next October, the Fifteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will meet to discuss the theme of young people and in particular the relationship between young people, faith and vocation. There we will have a chance to consider more deeply how, at the centre of our life, is the call to joy that God addresses to us and how this is “God’s plan for men and women in every age” (SYNOD OF BISHOPS, XV ORDINARY GENERAL ASSEMBLY, Young People, The Faith and Vocational Discernment, Introduction).
The Fifty-fifth World Day of Prayer for Vocations once again proclaims this good news to us, and in a decisive manner. We are not victims of chance or swept up in a series of unconnected events; on the contrary, our life and our presence in this world are the fruit of a divine vocation!
Even amid these troubled times, the mystery of the Incarnation reminds us that God continually comes to encounter us. He is God-with-us, who walks along the often dusty paths of our lives. He knows our anxious longing for love and he calls us to joy. In the diversity and the uniqueness of each and every vocation, personal and ecclesial, there is a need to listen, discern and live this word that calls to us from on high and, while enabling us to develop our talents, makes us instruments of salvation in the world and guides us to full happiness.
These three aspects – listening, discerning and living – were also present at beginning of Jesus’ own mission, when, after his time of prayer and struggle in the desert, he visited his synagogue of Nazareth. There, he listened to the word, discerned the content of the mission entrusted to him by the Father, and proclaimed that he came to accomplish it “today” (Lk 4:16-21).
The Lord’s call – let it be said at the outset – is not as clear-cut as any of those things we can hear, see or touch in our daily experience. God comes silently and discreetly, without imposing on our freedom. Thus it can happen that his voice is drowned out by the many worries and concerns that fill our minds and hearts.
We need, then, to learn how to listen carefully to his word and the story of his life, but also to be attentive to the details of our own daily lives, in order to learn how to view things with the eyes of faith, and to keep ourselves open to the surprises of the Spirit.
We will never discover the special, personal calling that God has in mind for us if we remain enclosed in ourselves, in our usual way of doing things, in the apathy of those who fritter away their lives in their own little world. We would lose the chance to dream big and to play our part in the unique and original story that God wants to write with us.
Jesus too, was called and sent. That is why he needed to recollect himself in silence. He listened to and read the word in the synagogue, and with the light and strength of the Holy Spirit he revealed its full meaning, with reference to his own person and the history of the people of Israel.
Nowadays listening is becoming more and more difficult, immersed as we are in a society full of noise, overstimulated and bombarded by information. The outer noise that sometimes prevails in our cities and our neighbourhoods is often accompanied by our interior dispersion and confusion. This prevents us from pausing and enjoying the taste of contemplation, reflecting serenely on the events of our lives, going about our work with confidence in God’s loving plan, and making a fruitful discernment.
Yet, as we know, the kingdom of God comes quietly and unobtrusively (cf. Lk 17:21), and we can only gather its seeds when, like the prophet Elijah, we enter into the depths of our soul and are open to the imperceptible whisper of the divine breeze (cf. 1 Kg 19:11-13).
When Jesus, in the synagogue of Nazareth, reads the passage of the prophet Isaiah, he discerns the content of the mission for which he was sent, and presents it to those who awaited the Messiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour (Lk 4:18-19).
In the same way, each of us can discover his or her own vocation only through spiritual discernment. This is “a process by which a person makes fundamental choices, in dialogue with the Lord and listening to the voice of the Spirit, starting with the choice of one’s state in life” (SYNOD OF BISHOPS, XV ORDINARY GENERAL ASSEMBLY, Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment, II, 2).
Thus we come to discover that Christian vocation always has a prophetic dimension. The Scriptures tell us that the prophets were sent to the people in situations of great material insecurity and of spiritual and moral crisis, in order to address in God’s name a message of conversion, hope and consolation. Like a whirlwind, the prophet unsettles the false tranquility of consciences that have forgotten the word of the Lord. He discerns events in the light of God’s promise and enables people to glimpse the signs of dawn amid the dark shadows of history.
Today too, we have great need of discernment and of prophecy. We have to resist the temptations of ideology and negativity, and to discover, in our relationship with the Lord, the places, the means and situations through which he calls us. Every Christian ought to grow in the ability to “read within” his or her life, and to understand where and to what he or she is being called by the Lord, in order to carry on his mission.
Lastly, Jesus announces the newness of the present hour, which will enthuse many and harden the heart of others. The fullness of time has come, and he is the Messiah proclaimed by Isaiah and anointed to liberate prisoners, to restore sight to the blind and to proclaim the merciful love of God to every creature. Indeed, Jesus says that “today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk 4:21).
The joy of the Gospel, which makes us open to encountering God and our brothers and sisters, does not abide our slowness and our sloth. It will not fill our hearts if we keep standing by the window with the excuse of waiting for the right time, without accepting this very day the risk of making a decision. Vocation is today! The Christian mission is now! Each one of us is called – whether to the lay life in marriage, to the priestly life in the ordained ministry, or to a life of special consecration – in order to become a witness of the Lord, here and now
This “today” that Jesus proclaimed assures us that God continues to “come down” to save our human family and to make us sharers in his mission. The Lord continues to call others to live with him and to follow him in a relationship of particular closeness. He continues to call others to serve him directly. If he lets us realize that he is calling us to consecrate ourselves totally to his kingdom, then we should have no fear! It is beautiful – and a great grace – to be completely and forever consecrated to God and the service of our brothers and sisters.
Today the Lord continues to call others to follow him. We should not wait to be perfect in order to respond with our generous “yes”, nor be fearful of our limitations and sins, but instead open our hearts to the voice of the Lord. To listen to that voice, to discern our personal mission in the Church and the world, and at last to live it in the today that God gives us.
May Mary Most Holy, who as a young woman living in obscurity heard, accepted and experienced the Word of God made flesh, protect us and accompany us always on our journey.
From the Vatican, 3 December 2017
First Sunday of Advent