Pope Francis: Jesus comes to us when we are at our lowest

Pope Francis presides over a July 28 Mass at the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré in Canada. Pope Francis presides over a July 28 Mass at the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré in Canada. | Vatican Media

At a July 28 Mass in the historic Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré in Québec, Pope Francis preached on the hope and redemption that Christ offers in the face of shame, and how God seeks to draw near to us in moments of failure.

“On the path of life and faith, as we seek to achieve the dreams, plans, hopes and expectations deep in our hearts, we also come up against our own frailties and weaknesses; we experience setbacks and disappointments, and often we can remain imprisoned by a paralyzing sense of failure. Yet the Gospel tells us that at those very moments we are not alone, for the Lord comes to meet us and stands at our side,” the pope said, preaching in his native Spanish.

“He accompanies us on our way with the discretion of a gentle fellow traveler who wants to open our eyes and make our hearts once more burn within us. Whenever our failures lead to an encounter with the Lord, life and hope are reborn and we are able to be reconciled: with ourselves, with our brothers and sisters, and with God.”

The Gospel reading from St. Luke told of the meeting of the two disciples with the risen Christ on the Road to Emmaus, and of the opening of the disciples’ eyes to Jesus’ identity during the breaking of the bread. Pope Francis noted that there was likely a “sense of failure haunting the hearts of the two disciples after the death of Jesus,” which was turned to hope during their encounter with Christ.

“The Gospel shows us…that it is in precisely such situations of disappointment and grief – when we are appalled by the violence of evil and shame for our sins, when the living waters of our lives are dried up by sin and failure, when we are stripped of everything and seem to have nothing left – that the Lord comes to meet us and walks at our side,” the pope said.

“On the way to Emmaus, Jesus gently drew near and accompanied the disconsolate footsteps of those sad disciples. And what does he do? He does not offer generic words of encouragement, simplistic and facile words of consolation but instead, by revealing the mystery of his death and resurrection foretold in the Scriptures, he sheds new light on their lives and the events they experienced. In this way, he opens their eyes to see everything anew.”

Cardinal Gérald Lacroix of Québec was the principal celebrant of the Mass, which was celebrated in French. The shrine, the Basilica of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, is the oldest Catholic pilgrimage site in North America, the first church having been built on the site in 1658. Dedicated to the grandmother of Jesus, the shrine has long been revered as a place of healing.

Local authorities estimated that 2,000 people were at the shrine Thursday. In the province of Québec, despite the majority of the population having Catholic roots, fewer than 10% attend Mass regularly, compared with 90% several decades ago, the AP reports.

The first reading spoke of the shame that Adam and Eve felt as a result of their sin. The pope has several times spoken about his personal shame at the mistreatment of indigenous children at Canada’s church-run residential schools, which operated until the 1990s. Pope Francis publicly apologized on Monday for the mistreatment and abuse perpetrated by Christians during the schools’ operation, and has reiterated several times his “shame and sorrow” at the hurt expressed by former students at the schools.

“In confronting the scandal of evil and the Body of Christ wounded in the flesh of our indigenous brothers and sisters, we too have experienced deep dismay; we too feel the burden of failure,” he noted.

“Allow me to accompany you as a Church in pondering these questions that arise from hearts filled with pain: Why did all this happen? How could this happen in the community of those who follow Jesus?”

Following Jesus provides the sole means of truly achieving reconciliation, recovery from disappointments and weariness, and healing of past wounds, the pope said.

“There is but one path, a sole way: it is the way of Jesus, the way that is Jesus (John 14:6). Let us believe that Jesus draws near to us on our journey. Let us go out to meet him. Let us allow his word to interpret the history we are making as individuals and as a community, and show us the way to healing and reconciliation. In faith, let us break together the Eucharistic Bread, so that around the table we can see ourselves once again as beloved children of the Father, called to be brothers and sisters all,” Pope Francis preached.

“Let us make his word central to everything we do, for it sheds light on all that happens and restores our vision. It enables us to see the operative presence of God’s love and the potential for good even in apparently hopeless situations. Let us put at the center the Bread of the Eucharist, which Jesus today once again breaks for us, so that he can share his life with us, embrace our weakness, sustain our weary steps and heal our hearts. Reconciled with God, with others and with ourselves, may we ourselves become instruments of reconciliation and peace within our societies.”

Continuing what he has called a “penitential pilgrimage” in Canada, Pope Francis is set to pray vespers tonight with bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated persons, seminarians, and pastoral workers at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Québec. Tomorrow, Friday, July 29, the pope is set to fly north to Iqaluit, to meet privately with students of the former residential schools.

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