One week ago today I was attending Sunday mass in a small church near the Vatican in Rome. It still gives me chills just thinking about it. It was Kristen’s and my first day in Rome and so fitting that it was a Sunday.
You see, the beauty of being Catholic is that you can go to church anywhere in the world and know exactly what is being said, what is being prayed, and what is being offered throughout the mass, regardless of the language. A Catholic mass in Cedar Park, Texas is exactly the exact same mass in Sao Paolo, Brazil or anywhere else in the world, including Rome. Hash-tag so very blessed.
Ironically, our Sunday mass that day in Rome happened to be said by a visiting priest from New Jersey so it was all in English. I remember leaning over and whispering to Kristen how ironic it was that we had an American priest saying mass in Rome but yet back home in Texas our two parish priests are from Uganda and India. Again, so Catholic, as the very word means “universal.”
From mass we took the short walk to St. Peter’s Square and waited for Pope Francis to appear at the window of the study in the Apostolic Palace to pray the Angelus with the faithful pilgrims gathered, including me and my daughter. The massive crowd was joyful as groups sang and danced in anxious anticipation. Flags waved and everyone was polite. No pushing, no shoving. Young and old stood as one. And then we saw the wave and heard that familiar voice say “bon giorno.” The crowd went wild.
How lucky I am to have been a part of something so special. Kristen and I have been blessed by the Pope. I am honored. I am humbled. So, today my Sunday Scripture blog consists of Pope Francis’ very words from that Sunday morning, words that still ring in my ears:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The brief similarities put forward in today’s liturgy conclude the chapter of Matthew’s Gospel dedicated to the parables of the Kingdom of God (13:44-52). Among these are two small masterpieces: the parables of the treasure hidden in the field, and the pearl of great price. They tell us that the discovery of the Kingdom of God can come suddenly, as when the peasant farmer is ploughing, finding the treasure unexpectedly; or after a long search, as the pearl for the merchant, who finally found the pearl of great price he had long dreamed of. But in that case and in the other, the primary fact remains that the treasure and the pearl are worth more than all other goods. Therefore, the farmer and the merchant, when they find them, give up everything else to buy them. They do not need to reason, to think, to reflect: they realize immediately the incomparable value of what they have found, and are willing to lose anything to have it.
So is the Kingdom of God: whoever finds it has no doubts, he feels that it is what he was looking and waiting for, and that it responds to his most authentic aspirations. And it is really so: those who know Jesus, who meet him personally, remain fascinated, attracted by so much goodness, so much truth, so much beauty, and all in great humility and simplicity. Look for Jesus, encounter Jesus. This is the great treasure!
How many people, how many saints, reading the Gospel with an open heart, have been so struck by Jesus, converted to Him. Think of St. Francis of Assisi. He was already a Christian, but “milk-and-water” [insipid]. When he read the Gospel, in a decisive moment of his youth, he met Jesus, and found the Kingdom of God, and then all his dreams of earthly glory vanished. The Gospel makes one know the real, living Jesus. He addresses your heart and changes your life. So yes, leave everything. You can actually change your way of life, or continue to do what you did before, but you are another, you are born again. You find that you are given meaning, flavour, light to everything, even to hardships, even to suffering, even to death. Read the Gospel, read the Gospel. We’ve said this before, remember? Read a passage of the Gospel every day. Also carry a small copy of the Gospel with us, in your pocket, in your handbag – have one at hand, anyway. And there, reading a passage, we find Jesus.
Everything makes sense when you find this treasure, which Jesus called “the Kingdom of God,” that is, God reigning in your life, in our lives. He is love, peace and joy in every man and in all men. This is what God wants, it is that for which Jesus gave himself up to die on a Cross, to free us from the power of darkness and move into the realm of life, beauty, goodness, joy! Read the Gospel and find Jesus, and have this Christian joy and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Dear brothers and sisters, you see, the joy of having found the treasure of the Kingdom of God shines through. The Christian cannot conceal his faith, because it shines through in every word, every gesture, even in the most simple, everyday ones. The love that God shines through, given to us through Jesus. Let us pray, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, that his kingdom of love, justice and peace comes to us and to the whole world.
Tomorrow marks the one hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War, which caused millions of deaths and immense destruction. This conflict, which Pope Benedict XV called a “senseless slaughter”, resulted, after four long years, in a most fragile peace. Tomorrow, as we remember this tragic event, I hope that the mistakes of the past won’t be repeated, but that the lessons of history be taken into account, that the demands of peace through patient and courageous dialogue are always made to prevail.
In particular, my thoughts go out to three areas of crisis: the Middle East, Iraq and Ukraine. I ask that you continue to join me in prayer that the Lord may grant to the people and authorities of those areas the wisdom and strength needed to push ahead with the path of peace by addressing each dispute with the tenacity of dialogue and negotiation and with the force of reconciliation. That at the center of every decision, special interests aren’t put forward, but rather the common good and respect for every person. Let’s remember that all is lost with war, and nothing is lost with peace.
Brothers and sisters, no more war! No more war! Above all, I think of the children, those who have been denied hope of a decent life, of a future: dead children, wounded children, maimed children, orphaned children, children who have remnants of war as toys, children who don’t know how to smile. Please stop! I ask you with all my heart, it’s time to stop! Stop, please!
I extend a cordial greeting to all of you, pilgrims from Italy and other countries.
I greet the group of Brazilians, the parishes of the Diocese of Cartagena (Spain), the scouts of Gavião (Portugal), young people in Madrid, Asidonia-Jerez (Spain), and those of Monteolimpino (Como), ministrants from Conselve and Ronchi Casalserugo , the cubs of Catania and the faithful of Acerra.
I wish everyone a good Sunday. Don’t forget to pray for me. Have a good lunch. Goodbye!