Religious, priests, and seminarians gathered in the Church near the garden of Gethsemane today to meet with Pope Francis, who urged them to follow Christ with courage.
“The Lord in his great goodness and his infinite mercy always takes us by the hand lest we drown in the sea of our fears and anxieties. He is ever at our side, he never abandons us,” the Pope assured those gathered near the site of Jesus' agony in the garden on May 26.
The Church of Gethsemane in Jerusalem near the Mount of Olives was filled with enthusiastic religious, priests, and seminarians anxious to hear the Pope’s remarks.
“We are fully conscious of the disproportion between the grandeur of God’s call and our own littleness, between the sublimity of the mission and the reality of our human weakness,” Pope Francis acknowledged.
Yet “Jesus’ friendship with us, his faithfulness and his mercy, are a priceless gift which encourages us to follow him trustingly, our failures, our mistakes and betrayals notwithstanding.”
The Pope urged the consecrated persons to remain aware of the dangers of temptation, however.
“The Lord's goodness does not dispense us from the need for vigilance before the Tempter, before sin, before the evil and the betrayal which can enter even into the religious and priestly life,” he cautioned.
In a Jesuit-style meditation on the passion story of Jesus, Pope Francis urged his listeners to ask themselves, “who am I, before the sufferings of my Lord?”
Referencing the garden of Gethsemane where the disciples abandoned Christ, which is situated just outside the Church, he asked: “do I see myself in those who fled out of fear, who abandoned the master at the most tragic hour in his earthly life?”
“Is there perhaps duplicity in me, like that of the one who sold our Lord for thirty pieces of silver?” he asked.
“Or, thanks be to God, do I find myself among those who remained faithful to the end, like the Virgin Mary and the Apostle John?”
At the moment of Jesus' suffering on the cross, “everything seemed bleak and all hope seemed pointless” but “only love proved stronger than death,” reflected the Pontiff.
He encouraged the consecrated to stay faithful to the love of Christ despite the difficulties of their lives.
“You, dear brothers and sisters, are called to follow the Lord with joy in this holy land! It is a gift and it is a responsibility.”
Pope Francis assured them, “your presence here is extremely important; the whole Church is grateful to you and she sustains you by her prayers.”
The Holy Father closed his remarks by quoting the words of Jesus in the gospel of John. “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also.”
“Let us imitate the Virgin Mary and Saint John, and stand by all those crosses where Jesus continues to be crucified. This is how the Lord calls us to follow him,” he urged.