We focus on the apostolic journey to Malta and Holy Week. On Holy Saturday, during the Easter Vigil, Pope Francis invited "raise your eyes"For suffering and death have been embraced by Christ and now he is risen. Looking at his glorious wounds, we hear at the same time the Easter proclamation that we need so much: "Peace to you!".
"With uncommon humanity."
Taking stock of his apostolic journey to Malta (postponed for two years because of Covid), the Pope said on Wednesday, April 6, that Malta is a privileged place, a "wind rose".a key location, for several reasons.
First, because of its location in the middle of the Mediterranean (which receives and processes many cultures), and because it received the Gospel very early, through the mouth of St. Paul, whom the Maltese welcomed. "with uncommon humanity" (Acts 28:2), words Francis chose as the motto of his journey. And this is important in order to save humanity from a shipwreck that threatens us all, because, as the Pope said, implicitly evoking his message during the pandemic, we must not allow ourselves to be shipwrecked. "we are in the same boat" (cfr. A moment of prayer in St. Peter's Square, empty, on 27-III-2020). And that's why we need, he says now, the world to become "more fraternal, more liveable".. Malta represents that horizon and that hope. It represents "the right and the strength of the smallof small nations, but rich in history and civilization, which should carry forward another logic: that of respect and freedom, that of respect and also the logic of freedom"..
Secondly, Malta is key because of the phenomenon of migration: "Every immigrant" -said the Pope that day. "is a person with his dignity, his roots, his culture. Each one of them is the bearer of a richness infinitely greater than the problems involved. And let us not forget that Europe was made with migrations"..
Certainly, the reception of immigrants - Francis observes - must be planned, organized and governed in time, without waiting for emergency situations. "Because the migratory phenomenon cannot be reduced to an emergency, it is a sign of our times. And as such it must be read and interpreted. It can become a sign of conflict, or a sign of peace". And Malta is, that's why, "a laboratory of peace".The Maltese people have received, along with the Gospel, "the sap of fraternity, of compassion, of solidarity [...] and thanks to the Gospel will be able to keep them alive.".
Thirdly, Malta is also a key place from the point of view of evangelization. Because from its two dioceses, Malta and Gozo, many priests and religious, as well as lay faithful, have gone forth, bringing Christian witness to the whole world. Francis exclaims: "As if the passing of St. Paul had left the mission in the DNA of the Maltese!". That is why this visit was intended to be above all an act of recognition and gratitude.
We have, in short, three elements to situate this "compass rose": its special "humanity", its crossroads for immigrants and its involvement in evangelization. However, even in Malta, says Francis, the winds are blowing. "of secularism and globalized pseudo-culture based on consumerism, neo-capitalism and relativism".. For this reason, he went to the Grotto of St. Paul and to the national shrine of Ta' Pinuto ask the Apostle of the Gentiles and Our Lady for renewed strength, which always comes from the Holy Spirit, for the new evangelization.
In fact, Francis prayed to God the Father in St. Paul's Basilica: "Help us to recognize from afar the needs of those who struggle among the waves of the sea, struck against the rocks of an unknown shore. Grant that our compassion may not be exhausted in vain words, but that it may kindle the fire of welcome, which makes us forget the bad weather, gives warmth to hearts and unites them; fire of the house built on rock, of the one family of your children, sisters and brothers all." (Visit to the Grotto of St. Paul, April 3, 2022). In this way, the unity and fraternity that come from faith will be shown to everyone through works.
At the Shrine of Ta'Pinu (island of Gozo), the Pope pointed out that, at the Cross, where Jesus dies and it seems that all is lost, at the same time a new life is born: the life that comes with the time of the Church. To return to that beginning means rediscovering the essentials of faith. And that essential is the joy of evangelization.
Francisco does not beat around the bush, but puts himself in the reality of what is happening: "The crisis of faith, the apathy of the practice of belief, especially in the post-pandemic period, and the indifference of so many young people to the presence of God are not issues that we should 'sweeten', thinking that a certain religious spirit still resists after all, no. We must be vigilant so that religious practices are not reduced to a repetition of a repertoire of the past, but express a living, open faith that spreads the joy of the Gospel, because the joy of the Church is the joy of the Gospel. It is necessary to be vigilant so that religious practices are not reduced to the repetition of a repertoire of the past, but that they express a living faith, open, that spreads the joy of the Gospel, because the joy of the Church is to evangelize." (Prayer meeting, homily2-IV-2022).
To return to the beginning of the Church at the cross of Christ also means to welcome (again, allusion to immigrants): "You are a small island, but with a big heart. You are a treasure in the Church and for the Church. I say it again: you are a treasure in the Church and for the Church. To take care of it, it is necessary to return to the essence of Christianity: to the love of God, the motor of our joy, which makes us go out and travel the roads of the world; and to the welcoming of our neighbor, which is our simplest and most beautiful testimony on earth, and thus to continue moving forward, traveling the roads of the world, because the joy of the Church is to evangelize.".
Mercy: the heart of God
On Sunday, April 3, Francis celebrated Mass in Floriana (on the outskirts of Valletta, the capital of Malta). In his homily, he took his cue from the Gospel of the day, which recalled the episode of the adulterous woman (cf. Jn 8:2ff). In the accusers of the woman one can see a religiosity eaten away by hypocrisy, and by the bad habit of pointing fingers.
We too, the Pope noted, can have the name of Jesus on our lips, but deny it with our deeds. And he enunciated a very clear criterion: "He who thinks he defends the faith by pointing the finger at others will even have a religious vision, but he does not embrace the spirit of the Gospel, because he forgets mercy, which is the heart of God."
Those accusers, the successor of Peter explains,"are the portrait of those believers of all times, who make of faith an element of facade, where what is highlighted is the solemn exteriority, but the inner poverty, which is the most valuable treasure of man, is missing".. Therefore, Jesus wants us to ask ourselves: "What do you want me to change in my heart, in my life? How do you want me to see others?".
In Jesus' treatment of the adulteress -Mercy and misery met," the Pope points out, "we learn that any observation, if it is not motivated by charity and does not contain charity, will further sink the one who receives it.". God, on the other hand, always leaves open a possibility and knows how to find ways of liberation and salvation in every circumstance.
For God there is no one who is "irretrievable", because he always forgives. Moreover - Francis takes up one of his favorite arguments here - "God visits us by using our inner wounds."because he did not come for the healthy but for the sick (cfr. Mt 9, 12).
That is why we must learn from Jesus in the school of the Gospel: "If we imitate him, we will not focus on denouncing sins, but on going out in search of sinners with love. We will not look at those who are there, but we will go in search of those who are missing. We will no longer point fingers, but begin to listen. We will not discard the despised, but will look first to those who are considered last.".
Forgiveness and forgiveness
Francis' preaching during Holy Week began by contrasting the eagerness to save oneself (cf. Lk 23:35; Ibid., 37 and 39) with the attitude of Jesus who seeks nothing for himself, but only implores the Father's forgiveness. "Nailed to the scaffold of humiliation, the intensity of the gift increases, which becomes per-don" (Homily on Palm Sunday, 10-IV-2022).
Indeed, in the structure of this word, forgiveness, we can see that forgiving is more than giving, it is giving in the most perfect way, giving by involving oneself, giving completely.
No one has ever loved us, each and every one of us, as Jesus loves us. On the cross, he lives the most difficult of his commandments: love of enemies. He does not do as we do, who lick our wounds and grudges. Moreover, he asked for forgiveness, "because they don't know what they're doing". "Because they don't know."Francisco stresses and points out: "That ignorance of the heart that all sinners have. When violence is used, nothing is known of God, who is Father, nor of others, who are brothers.". That is how it is: when love is rejected, the truth is unknown. And an example of all this, the Pope concludes, is war: "In war we crucify Christ again.".
In the words of Jesus addressed to the good thief, "Today you will be with me in paradise." (Lk 23:43), we see "the prodigy of God's forgiveness, which transforms the last request of a man condemned to death into the first canonization in history".
Thus we see that holiness is attained by asking for forgiveness and forgiving, and that "with God you can always live again".. "God never tires of forgiving."The Pope repeated several times in recent days, also in relation to the service that priests must render to the faithful (cf. Homily at the Mass of the Holy Father). in Cœna Domini, in the new Civitavecchia Prison Complex, 14-IV-2022).
Seeing, hearing and announcing
In his homily during the Easter Vigil (Holy Saturday, April 16, 2022), Francis looked at the Gospel account of the announcement of the resurrection to the women (cf. Lk 41:1-10). He underlined three verbs.
First, "see". They saw the stone rolled away and when they entered they did not find the body of the Lord. Their first reaction was fear, not looking up from the ground. Something like that, the Pope observes, happens to us: "Too often, we look at life and reality without lifting our eyes from the ground; we only focus on the today that passes, we feel disappointment for the future and we lock ourselves in our needs, we settle in the prison of apathy, while we keep lamenting and thinking that things will never change.". And so we bury the joy of living.
Then, "listen"considering that the Lord "it's not here". Maybe we are looking for you "in our words, in our formulas and in our habits, but we forget to look for it in the darkest corners of life, where there is someone who cries, who struggles, suffers and hopes.". We must raise our eyes and open ourselves to hope.
Let's hear it: "Why do you seek the living among the dead? We must not look for God, Francis interprets, among dead things: in our lack of courage to allow ourselves to be forgiven by God, to change and put an end to the works of evil, to decide for Jesus and his love; in reducing faith to an amulet, "making God a beautiful memory of times past, instead of discovering Him as the living God who today wants to transform us and the world."; en "a Christianity that seeks the Lord among the vestiges of the past and encloses him in the tomb of custom"..
And finally, "announce". The women announce the joy of the Resurrection: "The light of the Resurrection does not want to hold women in the ecstasy of a personal joy, it does not tolerate sedentary attitudes, but generates missionary disciples who 'return from the tomb' and bring to all the Gospel of the Risen One. After having seen and heard, the women ran to announce the joy of the Resurrection to the disciples."They knew they would be taken for fools. But they did not care about their reputation or defend their image; they did not measure their feelings or calculate their words. They only had the fire in their hearts to carry the news, the announcement: "The Lord is risen!".
Hence the proposal for us: "Let us bring it to ordinary life: with gestures of peace in this time marked by the horrors of war; with works of reconciliation in broken relationships and compassion towards those in need; with actions of justice in the midst of inequalities and of truth in the midst of lies. And, above all, with works of love and fraternity".
At the general audience of April 13, the Pope explained what the peace of Christ consists of, and he did so in the context of the current war in Ukraine. The peace of Christ is not a peace of agreements, much less an armed peace. The peace that Christ gives us (cf. Jn 20:19,21) is that which he won on the cross with the gift of himself.
The Pope's Easter message, "at the end of a Lent that does not seem to want to end". (between the end of the pandemic and the war) has to do with that peace that Jesus brings us by bringing "our sores". Ours because we have caused them and because He carries them for us. "The wounds on the Body of the risen Jesus are the sign of the struggle that He has fought and conquered for us, with the weapons of love, so that we may have peace, be at peace, live in peace."(Blessing urbi et orbi Resurrection Sunday, 17-IV-2022).