Vatican City, May 20, 2013 / 15:02 pm
Pope Francis asked those gathered for the Pentecost Vigil Mass at the Vatican to chant Christ's name instead of his own, highlighting his role as Christ's vicar on earth.
"From now on no more 'Francis,' only 'Jesus,' alright?" he asked rhetorically during the Pentecost Vigil Mass said May 18 at Saint Peter's Square.
"All of you in the square shouted out 'Francis, Francis, Pope Francis,' but where was Jesus?" he admonished them. "I want to hear you shout out 'Jesus, Jesus is Lord, and he is in our midst.'"
During his homily, he spoke to the more than 200,000 people gathered from ecclesial movements from around the world.
The Pope told how his grandmother was the first to pass on the faith to him, and insisted that a person's faith begins through their family.
"I received my first Christian proclamation right from this woman, from my grandmother. That is something beautiful," he exclaimed.
"The first proclamation is in the home, within the family. This makes me think of the love of many mothers and so many grandmothers in the transmission of the faith," he said.
He told mothers to conscientiously transmit faith to their children, because "God puts people alongside us who help our journey of faith."
He also told how, at the age of 16, he felt a sudden urge to go to confession one day. It was there that he heard the call to priesthood.
"After the confession I felt that something had changed, I was not the same. I felt a voice call me, and I was convinced that I had to become a priest."
"This experience of faith is important," he added. "We say that we must seek God, go to him to ask for forgiveness but when we go, he is waiting for us, he is the first one there."
Attendants had posed four questions to the pontiff, which he answered during his homily. The first question inquired about how he has achieved "certainty of faith" and how he would guide each of them to "overcome our fragility of faith."
"Fragility's biggest enemy, curiously enough, is fear. But do not be afraid," he advised. "We are weak, we know it. But Jesus is stronger and if you are with him, then there is no problem."
The second question given him was on the challenge of evangelization for ecclesial movements and how to effectively communicate the faith in today's world.
"If we push ahead with planning and organization – beautiful things indeed – but without Jesus, then we are on the wrong road. Jesus is the most important thing," emphasized Pope Francis.
The pontiff underscored the importance of prayer and "letting God gaze at you."
He said that he prays the rosary daily, but often "nods off" in front of the tabernacle. "But he understands me. I feel so much comfort when I think that he is looking at me."
The Bishop of Rome underscored the need for letting one's self be guided by God. He reflected on St. Peter's vision of "the sheet with all the animals," when Christ told him to eat non-kosher foods, Christ having made them clean.
Though St. Peter was at first reluctant and did not understand, "some non-Jews came to call him to go into a house, and he saw how the Holy Spirit was there."
"Peter was guided by Jesus to reach that first evangelization to the Gentiles," Pope Francis said. "Be guided by Jesus' own leadership," he urged.
The third question was concerning suffering, and how the movements may address it for the good of the Church and of society.
"When the Church becomes closed in on itself, it gets sick," Pope Francis said, appealing to people to "not close in on themselves, on their own friends and movements."
"Think of a closed room, a room locked for a year, when you go in, has a smell of damp," he said. "A Church that is closed in on itself is just the same – it is a sick Church."
When Christians are "starched," speaking "of theology calmly over tea," rather than being courageous and encountering non-Christians and the poor, the Church is sick, he said.
The pontiff believes people cannot rest in peace knowing that a starving child is not news worthy.
"We cannot become starched Christians, too polite, who speak of theology calmly over tea, we have to become courageous Christians," he said.
Catholics must themselves reach out to the poor and assist them on a personal level, he stressed.
"A poor Church for the poor begins with going to the flesh of Christ," which he called the poor.
Personally helping the poor, for Pope Francis, is a theological response to Christ's own poverty. It is a loving response to God's own solidarity with us, since he "humbled himself" and "became poor, walking with us on the road."
He also emphasized the danger of letting worldliness creep into the Church. "There is a problem that is not good for Christians: the spirit of the world, the worldly spirit, the spiritual worldliness."
The final question asked of the pontiff regarded how Catholics can help and support those who are persecuted for their faith.
"We must try to make them feel, these brothers and sisters, that we are deeply united to their situation," he said, highlighting the importance of praying in solidarity with them.
"In the prayer of every day we must say to Jesus, 'Lord, look upon this brother, look at this sister who suffers so much,'" he concluded.