It is HOLY WEDNESDAYin the late afternoon. Before an empty St. Peter's Square, dampened by the rain, backed by the crucifix of San Marcello al Corso and the image of the Salus Populi Romani, Francis addresses the millions of viewers who are watching him with their souls on tenterhooks, most of them confined to their homes because of Covid-19.
With God life never dies
The Pope contemplates the Gospel scene of the apostles in a boat tossed by the storm that broke out on the lake of Gennesaret. "Master, do you not care that we perish... Why are you afraid?".
"We are all in this boat," Francisco looks at us. "Like those disciples, who speak with one voice and in anguish say: we perishWe too have discovered that we can no longer go on our own, but only together"..
"It's easy." -The successor of Peter remarked. "to identify with this story, the difficult thing is to understand the attitude of Jesus.". It happened to them too. They had not stopped believing in their Master, but they did not have enough faith. Do you not care that we perish? "They thought that Jesus was disinterested in them, that he was not paying attention to them." And that also unleashed a storm in the heart of Jesus - because he always cares about us - who rushed to save them.
"The Tempest" -Francis points out with arguments that he has repeated during these weeks. "unmasks our vulnerability and lays bare those false and superfluous securities with which we had built our agendas, our projects, routines and priorities.". This storm "shows us how we had left asleep and abandoned the one who nourishes, sustains and gives strength to our life and our community.". Third point, "the storm lays bare all the attempts to box in and forget what nourished the soul of our peoples; all those attempts to anesthetize with apparent 'saving' routines, incapable of appealing to our roots and evoking the memory of our elders, thus depriving us of the immunity needed to face adversity.".
The Pope asks us to be strengthened by the example of so many "ordinary people" who, although they do not usually appear in the newspapers or on the catwalks, are today writing decisive events in our history, because they have understood that "no one is saved alone"; and they serve tirelessly and heroically: in hospitals, at work, in homes, sowing serenity and prayer.
We are not self-sufficient, we cannot save ourselves alone. But we have Jesus and with Him on board, we are not shipwrecked. "Because that one" -Francisco points out. "He brings serenity in our storms, because with God life never dies". Jesus invites us to trust in him, to serve with the strength of solidarity and the anchor of hope, embracing in his Cross the setbacks of the present time.
The omnipotence of love
The image of Jesus asleep in the boat is still present when we hear frequent questions in times of crisis (like the present): Where is God now, why does he allow suffering, why doesn't he solve our problems quickly?
Such is merely human logic, as the Pope stated in his April 8 general audience. He contemplated the entry of Jesus on Palm Sunday into Jerusalem, meek and humble, and the subsequent rejection of those who thought: "The Messiah is not He, for God is strong, God is invincible.".
This logic contrasts with another that appears at the end of the Passion narrative. At the death of Jesus, the Roman centurion, who was not a believer - not a Jew, but a pagan - after seeing him suffer on the cross and hearing that he had forgiven everyone, that is, after having felt his love without measure, confesses: "Truly this man was the Son of God." (Mk 15:39). It is the opposite logic, the logic of faith, which recognizes Jesus as the true God.
What is it -Francisco wondered-? the real He came to meet us in Jesus, and revealed himself to us fully, just as he is, at the Cross. "There - on the cross - we learn the features of God's face. Let us not forget, brothers and sisters, that the cross is the chair of God.". For this reason, in order to free ourselves from prejudices about God, the Pope invited us first of all to look at the Crucifix.
Second, he encouraged us to take the Gospelto see how Jesus acts before those who want to make Him an earthly Messiah: He avoids being made king, He hides, He is mute, He does not want to be misunderstood, He is taken for "a false god, a worldly god who puts on a show and imposes himself by force."And how does he show his true identity? The answer is: in his self-giving for us on the Cross. That is why the centurion acknowledges: "Truly he was the Son of God.".
The conclusion is clear: "It is seen that God is omnipotent in love, and not otherwise.". Such is God, his strength is none other than that of love. His power is different from that of this world. If already among us love is capable of giving our life for others - as we see these days when we see "the saints next door"-. God's love is capable of giving us a Life that surpasses death.
Thus, the Easter that follows Holy Week tells us that "God can turn everything into good.". And this is not a mirage, but the truth. Although our anguished questions about evil do not suddenly disappear, Christ's resurrection teaches us, first, that God has changed history and conquered evil and death: "From the open heart of the Crucified One, the love of God comes to each one of us."
The resurrection of Jesus also teaches us how we can act: "We can change our stories by drawing closer to Him, by welcoming the salvation He offers us.". For this reason, Francis proposes for these days of Holy Week and Easter, and always: "Let us open our whole heart to him in prayer [...]: with the Crucifix and with the Gospel. Do not forget: Crucifix and Gospel.". In this way we will understand that God does not abandon us, that we are not alone, but that we are loved, because the Lord never forgets us.
From there we understand, as the Pope said in an interview with Austen Ivereigh (published in ABC on the same day as the general audience, April 8), that now is the time to work in whatever way we can for others. It is not a time to lower our arms, but to serve with creativity.
Now - he continued - is the time to grow in the experience and reflection that can lead us to improve our care for the most vulnerable, to promote an economy that rethinks priorities, to an ecological conversion that revises our way of life, to reject the utilitarian throwaway culture, to rediscover that true progress can only be achieved through memory, conversion and contemplation, relying on the dreams of the elderly and the prophecies - the testimonies and commitments - of the young.
Shortly afterwards, during the Easter Vigil - the celebration of the night in which Christ rose from the dead - Francis said that this is a night in which we have conquered "the right to hope". Not to a merely human hope that "all will be well": "It's not mere optimism, it's not a pat on the back or words of circumstantial encouragement."; but "a new, living hope that comes from God."capable of to bring life out of the grave.
This allows us to hope, he concluded, for an end to death and wars: "Let there be an end to the production and trade of arms, because we need bread and not guns. Let there be an end to abortions, which kill innocent life. May the hearts of those who have be opened, to fill the empty hands of those who lack the necessities."