Vatican City, Oct 12, 2014 / 11:43 am
In his Sunday Angelus address, Pope Francis said that God does not discriminate about who is invited to his banquet, and called on Christians to abandon their comforts and go toward the marginalized.
"We are all called not to reduce the Kingdom of God to the confines of our 'little churches,' but to dilate the Church to the dimensions of the Kingdom of God," the pontiff said before his Oct. 12 recitation of the traditional Marian prayer.
"The goodness of God has no limits and discriminates against no one. Because of this, the banquet of the Lord's gifts is universal, for everyone…Everyone is given the possibility of responding to his invitation, to his call; no one has the right to feel themselves privileged or (to have) an exclusive claim."
With this knowledge in the back of our minds, we can overcome the habit "of comfortably placing ourselves at the center, like the chief priests and the Pharisees," he explained.
Instead, we learn to place ourselves "on the peripheries, recognizing that also those on the margins are the object of God's generosity."
Pope Francis took his cue from the day's Gospel reading from Matthew Chapter 22, in which a king, when no one responds to his invitation for a wedding feast, sends his servants to the streets to invite the poor, good and bad without discrimination.
Although many have been invited to his feast, the king is surprised by the reactions of his guests, none of whom attend because they either have better things to do or display an attitude of indifference, alienation and even annoyance.
"God is good to us, he freely offers us his friendship, his joy and salvation," the Pope noted. However, oftentimes we don't accept his gifts because we place our material concerns and our own personal interests first.
Many of the king's servants were mistreated and killed by his original guests, the Bishop of Rome observed, saying that "despite the lack of adherence to (his) calls, the project of God is not interrupted."
When faced with the refusal of so many the king does not become discouraged and call off the feast, but rather, "(he) repeats the invitation, extending (it) beyond any reasonable limit, sending his servants to the streets and byways to gather all whom they can find," the pontiff continued.
Those who end up coming are "common people, poor, abandoned and disregarded, good and bad, without distinction," he said. "And the room is filled with the 'excluded'."
Rejected by some, the Gospel "is warmly unexpected in so many other hearts," he noted. However, despite the Lord's generosity there is still one condition to be met in order to participate in the wedding feast.
Pope Francis then recalled how in the Gospel, when the king entered the hall where the feast was being held, he saw someone who was not wearing the wedding garment, and excluded them because of it.
Despite the fact that we have already taken part in the banquet of the Lord through our faith, we cannot claim to wear the wedding garment "if we do not live the love of God and neighbor," he said.
"Faith requires the witness of charity, (which) should be manifested in concrete attitudes of solidarity and of service to our brothers, especially the most vulnerable," the Pope explained, pointing to those who are persecuted as prime examples of the weak and vulnerable.
The Roman Pontiff concluded his reflections on the Gospel by entrusting to the intercession of Mary all of "the dramas and hopes" of those persecuted because of their faith, and asking her protection over the ongoing meetings of the Synod of Bishops, set to conclude Oct. 19.
After reciting the well-known Angelus prayer, Pope Francis gave thanks to God for the beatification of Fr. Fancesco Zirano of the Conventual Order of Friars Minor, a martyr, in the Italian city of Sassari that morning.
"He preferred to be killed rather than deny the faith," the pontiff observed, giving thanks for his heroic witness of the Gospel and courageous fidelity to Christ, particularly in the context of the current "ruthless" persecution of Christians around the world.
In addition, the Pope assured those suffering due to severe flooding in Genoa of his prayers and solidarity, and asked that Mary keep watch over efforts to overcome such a difficult trial.