“While sadly,” he continued, “distances grow in the world and tensions and wars increase, may the new saints inspire solutions of togetherness, ways of dialogue, especially in the hearts and minds of those who hold positions of great responsibility and are called to be protagonists of peace and not of war.”
Below is the full text of Pope Francis’ homily at Mass:
We have heard what Jesus told his disciples before leaving this world and returning to the Father. He told us what it means to be a Christian: “Even as I have loved you, so you must love one another” (Jn 13:34). This is the legacy that Christ bequeathed to us, the ultimate criterion for discerning whether or not we are truly his disciples. It is the commandment of love. Let us stop to consider two essential elements of this commandment: Jesus’ love for us —“as I have loved you” — and the love he asks us to show to others — “so you must love one another.”
First, the words “as I have loved you”. How did Jesus love us? To the very end, to the total gift of himself. It is striking to think that he spoke these words on that night of darkness, when the atmosphere in the Upper Room was one of deep emotion and anxiety: deep emotion, because the Master was about to bid farewell to his disciples; anxiety because he had said that one of them would betray him. We can imagine the sorrow that filled the heart of Jesus, the dark clouds that were gathering in the hearts of the apostles, and their bitterness at seeing Judas who, after receiving the morsel dipped for him by the Master, left the room to enter into the night of betrayal. Yet at the very hour of his betrayal, Jesus reaffirmed his love for his own. For amid the darkness and tempests of life, that is the most important thing of all: God loves us.
Brothers and sisters, may this message be the core of our own faith and all the ways in which we express it: “…not that we loved God but that he loved us” (1 Jn 4:10). Let us never forget this. Our abilities and our merits are not the central thing, but rather the unconditional, free and unmerited love of God. Our Christian lives begin not with doctrine and good works, but with the amazement born of realizing that we are loved, prior to any response on our part. While the world frequently tries to convince us that we are valued only for what we can produce, the Gospel reminds us of the real truth of life: we are loved. A contemporary spiritual writer put it this way: “Long before any human being saw us, we were seen by God’s loving eyes. Long before anyone heard us cry or laugh, we were heard by our God, who is all ears for us. Long before any person spoke to us in this world, we were spoken to by the voice of eternal love” (H. NOUWEN, Life of the Beloved). He loved us first; he waits for us; he keeps loving us. This is our identity: we are God’s loved ones. This is our strength: we are loved by God.