The Vatican

Pope Francis: "With his smile, Pope Luciani succeeded in transmitting the goodness of the Lord".

On the rainy morning of September 4, Pope Francis beatified John Paul I in St. Peter's Square. In his homily he highlighted Luciani's joy and his following of Christ through the cross.

Javier Garcia-September 4, 2022-Reading time: 3 minutes

Photo: unveiling of the portrait of the new Blessed. ©Photo CNS/Paul Haring

The beatification took place this morning in Rome of John Paul IPope Luciani. The onset of rain prevented many of the faithful from coming to St. Peter's Square, which had a very poor entrance for such an eagerly awaited occasion. In his homily, Pope Francis commented on the Gospel of the day, pointing out how following Jesus by taking up his cross can be seen as "an unattractive and very demanding discourse".

Trying to understand the context of the Gospel scene, the Pontiff added that "we can imagine that many had been fascinated by his words and amazed by the gestures he performed; and, therefore, had seen in him a hope for their future. What would any teacher of that time have done, or - we can ask ourselves - what would an astute leader have done when he saw that his words and his charisma attracted the crowds and increased his popularity? It also happens today, especially in times of personal and social crisis, when we are more exposed to feelings of anger or we are afraid of something that threatens our future, we become more vulnerable; and so, letting ourselves be carried away by emotions, we put ourselves in the hands of those who with skill and cunning know how to handle that situation, taking advantage of the fears of society and promising to be the savior who will solve the problems, while in reality what he wants is to increase his acceptance and power".

The divine way of acting

Jesus Christ's way of acting is not calculating or deceitful, "He does not exploit our needs, he never uses our weaknesses to aggrandize himself. He does not want to seduce us with deceit, he does not want to distribute cheap joys, nor is he interested in human tides. He does not profess the cult of numbers, he does not seek acceptance, he is not an idolater of personal success. On the contrary, he seems to be concerned that people follow him with euphoria and easy enthusiasm. Thus, instead of being attracted by the allure of popularity, he asks everyone to carefully discern the motivations that lead them to follow him and the consequences that this entails".

As Pope Francis has often pointed out, there can be many wrong or not very upright reasons for following Jesus. Concretely, he pointed out that "behind a perfect religious appearance can hide the mere satisfaction of one's own needs, the search for personal prestige, the desire to have a position, to have things under control, the desire to occupy spaces and obtain privileges, and the aspiration to receive recognition, among other things. God can be instrumentalized to obtain all this. But it is not the style of Jesus. And it cannot be the style of the disciple and of the Church. The Lord asks for another attitude".

Words of Pope Luciani

The Holy Father then spoke of the dignity of carrying the cross of Christ, living a life of self-giving in imitation of Christ's love for our neighbor, without putting "anything before this love, not even the deepest affections and the greatest goods. To live up to the love of God, it is necessary "to purify ourselves of our distorted ideas about God and our closed-mindedness, to love him and others, in the Church and in society, even those who do not think as we do, and even our enemies.

Remembering John Paul I Pope Francis recalled some words of his in which he said: "if you want to kiss Jesus crucified 'you cannot but bend down towards the cross and let them prick some thorns of the crown, which has the head of the Lord on it" (General Audience, September 27, 1978). The Holy Father ended his words recalling how Pope Luciani "was a gentle and humble shepherd. He considered himself as the dust on which God had deigned to write. For this reason, he used to say: 'The Lord has recommended us so much to be humble! Even if you have done great things, say, 'We are unprofitable servants.

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