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Pope at Chrism Mass: "The Cross is not negotiable".

The Holy Father Francis presided at the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday, where he recalled that "the Lord embraced the Cross in its entirety".

David Fernández Alonso-April 1, 2021-Reading time: 8 minutes
chrism mass pope francisco

Photo: ©2021 Catholic News Service / U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

At 10:00 a.m. on Holy Thursday morning, the Holy Father Francis presided at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter's Basilica for the Chrism Mass, a liturgy celebrated in all cathedral churches. The evening Mass was not presided by Francis, as initially planned, but by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Prefect Emeritus of the Congregation for Bishops and President Emeritus of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

The Chrism Mass was presided over by the Holy Father and concelebrated by some Cardinals and Bishops, with the Superiors of the Secretariat of State and the members of the Presbyteral Council of the Diocese of Rome. During the Eucharistic Celebration, the priests renewed the promises made at the moment of their sacred ordination.

This was followed by the blessing of the oil of the sick, the oil of the catechumens and the chrism.
We publish below the homily delivered by the Pope after the proclamation of the Holy Gospel:

"The Gospel presents us with a change of feelings in the people who listen to the Lord. The change is dramatic and shows us how much persecution and the Cross are linked to the proclamation of the Gospel. The admiration aroused by the words of grace that came from the mouth of Jesus did not last long in the minds of the people of Nazareth. A phrase that someone muttered in a low voice went insidiously "viral": "Is this not the son of Joseph?

It is one of those ambiguous phrases that are dropped in passing. One can use it to express with joy: "How wonderful that someone of such humble origins speaks with such authority". And another might use it to say with contempt: "Where did he come from? Who does he think he is? If we look at
Well, the phrase is repeated when the apostles, on the day of Pentecost, filled with the Holy Spirit, begin to preach the Gospel. Someone said: "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?" (Acts 2:7). And while some received the Word, others gave them up as drunkards.

Formally it would seem that an option was left open, but if we are guided by the fruits, in that concrete context, these words contained a germ of violence that was unleashed against Jesus. It is a "motivating phrase", as when one says: "This is already too much!" and assaults the other or leaves.

The Lord, who sometimes was silent or went to the other side, this time did not let the comment pass, but unmasked the evil logic that was hidden under the disguise of a simple village gossip. "You people will tell me this saying, 'Physician, heal thyself!' You have to do here in your own land the same things we heard you did in Capernaum" (Lk 4:23). "Heal thyself...". "Let him save himself...". There's the poison! It is the same phrase that will follow the Lord to the Cross: "He saved others! Let him save himself!" (cf. Lk 23:35); "and let him save us," one of the two thieves will add (cf. v. 39). The Lord, as always, does not dialogue with the evil spirit, but only responds with Scripture.

Neither were the prophets Elijah and Elisha accepted by their compatriots, but they were accepted by a Phoenician widow and a Syrian suffering from leprosy: two foreigners, two people of another religion. The facts are convincing and provoke the effect that Simeon, that charismatic old man, had prophesied: that Jesus would be "a sign of contradiction" (semeion antilegomenon) (Lk 2:34).

The word of Jesus has the power to bring to light what each one has in his heart, which is often mixed, like wheat and tares. And this causes spiritual struggle. Seeing the Lord's overflowing gestures of mercy and listening to his beatitudes and the "woe to you" of the Gospel, one is forced to discern and make a choice. In this case his word was not accepted and this caused the crowd, in a rage, to try to put an end to his life. But it was not "the hour" and the Lord, the Gospel tells us, "passed through the midst of them and went on his way" (Lk 4:30).

It was not the hour, but the speed with which the fury and ferocity of the fury was unleashed, capable of murdering the Lord at that very moment, shows us that it is always the hour. And this is what I would like to share with you today, dear priests: that the hour of the proclamation
and the hour of persecution and the Cross go together.

The proclamation of the Gospel is always linked to the embrace of some concrete Cross. The gentle light of the Word generates clarity in well-disposed hearts and confusion and rejection in those who are not. We see this constantly in the Gospel. The good seed sown in the field bears fruit - the hundredfold, the sixtyfold, the thirtyfold - but it also arouses the envy of the enemy who compulsively sets about sowing tares during the night (cf. Mt 13:24-30,36-43).

The tenderness of the merciful father irresistibly attracts the prodigal son to return home, but also arouses the indignation and resentment of the elder son (cf. Lk 15:11-32).

The generosity of the owner of the vineyard is a reason for gratitude in the workers of the last hour, but it is also a reason for sour comments in the first ones, who feel offended because their master is good (cf. Mt 20:1-16). The closeness of Jesus who goes to eat with sinners wins hearts like those of Zacchaeus, Matthew, the Samaritan woman..., but also arouses feelings of contempt in those who believe themselves to be good (cf. Mt 20:1-16).

The magnanimity of the king who sends his son, thinking that he will be respected by the vinedressers, nevertheless unleashes in them a ferocity beyond measure: we are before the mystery of iniquity, which leads to the killing of the Just One (cf. Mt 21:33-46). All this makes us see that the proclamation of the Good News is mysteriously linked to persecution and the Cross.

St. Ignatius of Loyola, in the contemplation of the Nativity, expresses this Gospel truth when he makes us look and consider what St. Joseph and Our Lady do: "how it is to walk and work, so that the Lord may be born in great poverty, and after so many labors, hunger, thirst, heat and cold, insults and insults, to die on the cross; and all this for my sake. Then," Ignatius adds, "on reflection, draw some spiritual profit" (Spiritual Exercises, 116). What reflection can we make to draw profit for our priestly life in contemplating this early presence of the Cross - of misunderstanding, rejection, persecution - at the beginning and at the very center of the preaching of the Gospel? Two reflections come to mind.

First, we are astonished to see that the Cross is present in the life of the Lord at the beginning of his ministry and even before his birth. It is present already in Mary's first confusion at the Angel's announcement; it is present in Joseph's sleeplessness when he felt obliged to abandon his betrothed wife; it is present in Herod's persecution and in the hardships suffered by the Holy Family, the same as those of so many families who have to leave their homeland.

This reality opens us to the mystery of the Cross lived beforehand. It leads us to understand that the Cross is not an a posteriori, occasional event, the product of a conjuncture in the life of the Lord. It is true that all the crucifiers of history make the Cross appear as if it were collateral damage, but it is not so: the Cross does not depend on circumstances.

Why did the Lord embrace the Cross in its entirety? Why did Jesus embrace the entire passion, embrace the betrayal and abandonment of his friends as early as the Last Supper, accept the illegal arrest, the summary trial, the unconscionable sentence, the unnecessary evil of gratuitous slaps and spitting...? If the circumstantial affected the saving power of the Cross, the Lord would not have embraced everything. But when it was His hour, He embraced the whole Cross, because on the Cross there is no ambiguity! The Cross is not negotiable.

The second reflection is the following. It is true that there is something about the Cross that is an integral part of our human condition, of our limits and fragility. But it is also true that there is something that happens on the Cross, which is not inherent to our fragility, but it is the bite of the serpent, which, seeing the crucified one helpless, bites him, and seeks to poison and disprove all his work. It is a bite that seeks to scandalize, immobilize and render sterile and insignificant all service and sacrifice of love for others. It is the poison of the evil one who keeps insisting: save yourself. And in this cruel and painful bite, which pretends to be mortal, God's triumph finally appears.

St. Maximus the Confessor made us see that with Jesus crucified things were reversed: by biting the Flesh of the Lord, the devil did not poison him - he only found in Him infinite meekness and obedience to the will of the Father - but, on the contrary, together with the hook of the Cross, he swallowed the Flesh of the Lord, which was poison for him and became for us the antidote that neutralizes the power of the Evil One.

These are our reflections. Let us ask the Lord for the grace to profit from this teaching: there is a cross in the proclamation of the Gospel, it is true, but it is a Cross that saves. It is a Cross endowed with the Blood of Jesus, it is a Cross with the power of Christ's victory that overcomes evil, that frees us from the Evil One. Embracing it with Jesus and like Him, "before" going out to preach, allows us to discern and reject the poison of scandal with which the devil will want to poison us when a cross unexpectedly comes into our life.

"But we are not of those who shrink back (hypostoles)" (Heb 10:39) is the advice given to us by the author of the Letter to the Hebrews. We are not scandalized, because Jesus was not scandalized to see that his joyful proclamation of salvation to the poor did not resound pure, but in the midst of the cries and threats of those who did not want to hear his Word.

We are not scandalized because Jesus was not scandalized by having to heal the sick and free prisoners in the midst of moralistic, legalistic, clerical discussions and controversies that arose every time he did good. We are not scandalized because Jesus was not scandalized by having to give sight to the blind in the midst of people who closed their eyes so as not to see or looked the other way.

We are not scandalized because Jesus was not scandalized that his proclamation of the year of the Lord's favor - a year that is the whole of history - provoked a public scandal in what today would occupy only the third page of a provincial newspaper. And we are not scandalized because the proclamation of the Gospel does not receive its efficacy from our eloquent words, but from the power of the Cross (cf. 1 Cor 1:17).

From the way we embrace the Cross in proclaiming the Gospel-with works and, if necessary, with words-two things become clear: that the sufferings that come for the sake of the Gospel are not ours, but "the sufferings of Christ in us" (2 Cor 1:5), and that "we do not proclaim ourselves, but Jesus as Christ and Lord" and we are "servants for Jesus' sake" (2 Cor 4:5).

I want to end with a memory. Once, in a very dark moment of my life, I was asking the Lord for a grace to free me from a hard and difficult situation. I went to preach Spiritual Exercises to some nuns and on the last day, as was usual at that time, they went to confession. A very old sister came, with clear eyes, really luminous.

She was a woman of God. At the end I felt the desire to ask her for me and I told her: "Sister, as a penance, pray for me, because I need a grace. If you ask the Lord for it, he will surely give it to me". She paused for a long moment, as if praying, and then she told me this: "Surely the Lord will give you the grace, but make no mistake: he will give it to you in his divine way". This did me a lot of good: to feel that the Lord always gives us what we ask for, but he does it in his divine way. This way involves the cross. Not out of masochism, but out of love, out of love to the end".

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