Vatican City, Apr 27, 2014 / 03:40 am
At the canonization Mass for Popes John Paul II and John XXIII on Divine Mercy Sunday, Pope Francis emphasized the importance of Christ's suffering as a visible sign of divine love.
"The wounds of Jesus are a scandal, a stumbling block for faith, yet they are also the test of faith. That is why on the body of the risen Christ the wounds never pass away: they remain, for those wounds are the enduring sign of God's love for us," the pontiff said in his homily on April 27.
500,000 pilgrims packed into St. Peter's Square on the cloudy Sunday morning while 300,000 filled the surrounding neighborhood. They had travelled from all over the world to attend the Divine Mercy Sunday Mass at which John Paul II and John XXIII were declared saints.
Pope Francis reflected on Sunday's Gospel passage recounting the story of "doubting Thomas" who refused to believe in the risen Christ's appearance to the disciples, noting that only after Thomas was able to touch the wounds of Christ did he have faith.
Jesus' wounds "are essential for believing in God," stressed Pope Francis. "Not for believing that God exists, but for believing that God is love, mercy and faithfulness."
"John XXIII and John Paul II were not afraid to look upon the wounds of Jesus, to touch his torn hands and his pierced side. They were not ashamed of the flesh of Christ, they were not scandalized by him, by his cross; they did not despise the flesh of their brother, because they saw Jesus in every person who suffers and struggles."
The two newest saints of the Church "were priests, bishops and popes of the twentieth century. They lived through the tragic events of that century, but they were not overwhelmed by them," said Pope Francis.
"These were two men of courage, filled with the 'boldness' of the Holy Spirit, and they bore witness before the Church and the world to God's goodness and mercy."
John XXIII and John Paul II's faithfulness to Christ was an acknowledgement of their belief that "God was more powerful" than any of the evils they faced,adding that "the mercy of God, shown by those five wounds (of Christ) was more powerful; and more powerful too was the closeness of Mary our Mother."
Such faith was tied to "a living hope and an indescribable and glorious joy" which "Christ bestows on his disciples."
The "hope and joy of Easter" are won precisely through suffering, Pope Francis explained. They are " forged in the crucible of self-denial, self-emptying, utter identification with sinners, even to the point of disgust at the bitterness of that chalice."
"These two holy Popes" received the gifts of hope and joy "from the risen Lord."
"They in turn bestowed (these gifts) in abundance upon the People of God, meriting our eternal gratitude," acknowledged the Holy Father.
John XXIII "showed an exquisite openness to the Holy Spirit," in convening the Second Vatican Council, said Pope Francis. "He let himself be led and he was for the Church a pastor, a servant-leader."
John Paul II "was the Pope of the family," reflected the pontiff. "I am particularly happy to point this out as we are in the process of journeying with families towards the Synod on the family," he said, referencing the meeting of bishops which will take place in October to discuss matters related to family life.
"May these two new saints and shepherds of God's people intercede for the Church, so thatduring this two-year journey toward the Synod she may be open to the Holy Spirit in pastoral service to the family."
"May both of them teach us not to be scandalized by the wounds of Christ and to enter ever more deeply into the mystery of divine mercy, which always hopes and always forgives, because it always loves."
At the close of Mass, Pope Francis led the crowds in the traditional Marian prayer of the Easter season, the Regina Coeli.
He thanked the many organizers of the event and all the pilgrims present in Rome, as well as those following on various forms of media.