Never lose your sense of belonging to God’s people…
Today, May 7th, Pope Francis gave this advice to those watching his private daily Mass at his residence Casa Santa Marta, reported Vatican News.
At the start of the Mass, Pope Francis prayed for all victims of Coronavirus, and for artists after sharing that yesterday he received a letter from a group of them thanking him for his prayers.
“I would like to ask the Lord to bless them,” Francis said, “because through artists we understand beauty, and without beauty we cannot understand the Gospel.”
In his homily, the Holy Father reflected on today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 13, 13-25), in which Paul, having arrived in Antioch in Pisidia, goes to the synagogue and tells the history of the people of Israel and proclaims Jesus, our Savior.
“When Paul explains the new doctrine,” the Jesuit Pope recalled, “he speaks of the history of salvation,” noting he did this because before Jesus, there is a history of grace, of election, there is the Covenant.
Highlighting this long history, the Pope pointed out: “The Lord chose Abraham and walked with His people.”
Paul, the Pope said, does not begin with Jesus, he begins with history, because “Christianity is not only a doctrine, but a history that leads to this doctrine.”
Christianity, the Pope also suggested, is more than its ethical and moral principles, stating: “Christianity is more.”
The Pope reminded that Christianity is not just for specific groups, nor for an elite, lamenting that often we fall into these partialities.
Warning against losing our sense of belonging to God’s people, Francis invited faithful to always be aware of being part of a people, to transmit the history of our salvation, to preserve the memory of the people of God.
“Remember your ancestors,” says the author of the Letter to the Hebrews, he said.
“The most dangerous deviation of Christians,” Francis warned, “is lack of memory of belonging to a people.”
This, he blamed, as the root of dogmatism, moralism, and elitist movements.
Instead, he encouraged, the People of God walk behind a promise, a covenant, that they did not make but of which they are aware.
Pope Francis concluded, saying: “We are the faithful, holy People of God, who in its totality have a sense of the faith and is infallible in its belief.”
The Pope ended the celebration with Eucharistic Adoration and Benediction, inviting the faithful to make a Spiritual Communion.
The Masses in Francis’ chapel normally welcome a small group of faithful, but due to recent measures’ taken by the Vatican, are now being kept private, without their participation. The Holy Week and Easter celebrations in the Vatican were also done without the presence of faithful, but were able to be watched via streaming.
It was announced at the start of the lockdowns in Italy that the Pope would have these Masses, in this period, be available to all the world’s faithful, via streaming on Vatican Media, on weekdays, at 7 am Rome time, along with his weekly Angelus and General Audiences.
On May 4th, the country entered its so-called ‘Phase 2′, where it will slowly relaxing some of the lockdown restrictions.
It was announced, in a statement of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, that public Masses with the faithful will resume on Monday, May 18th. There will continue to be various safety measures in place, in order to protect the faithful.
In Italy where nearly 30,000 people have died from COVID19, public Masses are still prohibited. To date, in the Vatican, there have been twelve cases of coronavirus in the Vatican, confirmed a recent statement from the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni.
The Vatican Museums are closed, along with the Vatican’s other similar museums. There have also been various guidelines implemented throughout the Vatican, to prevent the spread of the virus.
For anyone interested, the Pope’s Masses at Santa Marta can be watched live and can be watched afterward on Vatican YouTube. Below is a link to today’s Mass. Also, a ZENIT English translation of the Pope’s full homily is below:
FULL HOMILY [translated by ZENIT’s Virginia Forrester]
When Paul is invited to speak in the Synagogue of Antioch, to explain this new doctrine, namely, to explain Jesus, to proclaim Jesus, Paul begins by talking about the history of salvation (Cf. Acts 13:13-21). Paul stood up and began: “The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt” (Acts 13:17) . . . and [he recounted] the whole of salvation, the history of salvation. Stephen did the same before his martyrdom (Cf. Acts 7:1-54) and Paul did too another time. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews does the same when he recounts the story of Abraham and “all our fathers” (Cf. Hebrews 11:1-39). We sang the same today: “I will sing of thy steadfast love, O Lord, for ever; with my mouth I will proclaim they faithfulness” (Psalm 89:2). We sang the story of David: “I have found David, my servant” (v. 20). Matthew (Cf. 1:1-14) and Luke (Cf. 3:23-38) do the same: when they begin to speak of Jesus, they take Jesus’ genealogy.
What is there behind Jesus? There is a history, a history of grace, a history of election, a history of promise. The Lord chose Abraham and went with His people. At the beginning of the Mass, in the hymn of the beginning, we said: “When You advanced, Lord, in front of your people and opened the way and walked next to your people, close to your people.” There is a history of God with His people. And because of this, when Paul was asked to explain the reason for faith in Jesus Christ, he doesn’t begin from Jesus Christ; he begins from the history. Christianity is a doctrine, yes, but not only. It’s not just the things that we believe: it is a history that brings this doctrine, which is God’s promise, God’s Covenant, to be chosen by God. Christianity isn’t just ethics. Yes, truly, it has moral principles, but one is not Christian with just a vision of ethics. It is more. Christianity is not “an elite” of people chosen for truth. This elitist sense that then goes on in the Church, no? For instance, I am of that institution, I belong to this movement, which is better than yours . . . than this, than that. It’s an elitist sense. No, Christianity isn’t this: Christianity is belonging to a people, to a people chosen freely by God. If we don’t have this awareness of belonging to a people we are “ideological Christians,” with a little doctrine of affirmation of truth, with ethics, with a morality — that’s fine — or with an elite. We Christian feel part of a group; the others will go to hell or, if they are saved, it’s by God’s mercy, but they are the rejected . . . And so on. If we don’t have an awareness of belonging to a people, we’re not true Christians.
Therefore, from the beginning Paul explains Jesus as belonging to a people. And many times, many times, we fall into this partiality; we are dogmatic, moral or elitist, no? The sense of <being an> elite is that which does so much harm and we lose the sense of belonging to the holy faithful people of God, which God chose in Abraham and has promised, the great promise, Jesus, and made him go with hope and made a Covenant with him; the awareness of being a people.
It always strikes me in Deuteronomy — I believe it’s chapter 26 — when it says: “Once a year when you go to present the offerings to the Lord, the first fruits, and when your son asks you: ‘But Father, why do you do this?’ you must not say to him: ‘Because God has ordered <it>,’ no: ‘We were a people, we were so and the Lord liberated us . . . ‘” (Cf. Deuteronomy 26:1-11). Recount the history, as Paul did here. Transmit the history of our salvation. In Deuteronomy itself the Lord counsels: “When you come into the land that you have not conquered, that I have conquered, and eat the fruits that you did not plant and dwell in houses that you did not build at the moment of giving the offering” (Cf. Deuteronomy 26:1, says — the famous Deuteronomic Creed –: “A wandering Aramean was my father; and he went down into Egypt (Deuteronomy 26: 5). He stayed there for 400 years, then the Lord liberated him, took him forward. History sings, the people’s memory, the memory of a people, of being a people. And in this history of the people of God, until Jesus Christ arrived, there were saints, sinners and many common people, good, with virtues and sins, but all. The famous “crowd” that followed Jesus, which had the scent of belonging to a people. A self-styled Christian who doesn’t have this scent isn’t a true Christian; he is a bit particular and feels somewhat justified without the people. <One must> belong to a people, have memory of the people of God. And Paul <and> Stephen teach this, then Paul again, the Apostles . . . It’s the advice of the author of the Letter to the Hebrews: “Remember your ancestors” (Cf. Hebrews 11:2), namely, those that have preceded us on this way of salvation.
If someone asked me: “For you, what is the deviation of Christians today and always? What are, for you, the most dangerous deviations of Christians?” I would say, without a doubt: the lack of memory of belonging to a people. When this is lacking, dogmatisms, moralism, ethicalism, elitist movements come. The people are missing. A sinful people always, we are all so, but that is not generally wrong which has the scent of being a chosen people, which walks behind a promise and which has made a Covenant, which perhaps it doesn’t fulfil, but knows it.
Ask the Lord for this awareness <of being> a people, may Our Lady who sang beautifully her Magnificat (Cf. Luke 1:46-56); may Zechariah who sang his Benedictus so beautifully (Cf. vv. 67-79), canticles that we pray every day, in the morning and in the evening. Awareness <of being> a people: we are the holy faithful people of God that, as Vatican Council I, then II say has in its totality the scent of faith and is infallible in this way of believing.
The Pope Invited the Faithful to Make a Spiritual Communion, with this Prayer:
I prostrate myself at your feet, O my Jesus, and I offer you the repentance of my contrite heart, which abases itself in its nothingness in your holy Presence. I adore You in the Sacrament of your Love, the ineffable Eucharist. I desire to receive you in the poor abode that my heart offers You, while waiting for the happiness of a Sacramental Communion, I want to possess You in spirit. Come to me, O my Jesus, that I may come to You. May your Love be able to inflame my whole being in life and in death. I believe in You, I hope in You, I love You.