TO WALK, TO BUILD, TO WITNESS, ALWAYS WITH THE CROSS OF CHRIST
This afternoon, the Holy Father Francis celebrated the “pro Ecclesia” Mass in the Sistine Chapel with the 114 Cardinal electors who participated in the Conclave and those who assisted with its functions.
The first reading was a canticle from the Prophet Isaiah that begins with the words: “In days to come, the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest mountain” and continues with the celebrated verses: “He shall judge between the nations, and set terms for many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; One nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again.” The second reading was from the First Letter of Peter dedicated to the common priesthood of the faithful, which reads: “like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood” and exhorts us to be “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of His own, so that you may announce the praises” of him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light”. The Gospel reading told the story of Peter’s confession when Christ asked His disciples: “And you, who do you say I am?” and Peter answered “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus said to him in reply: “And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”
In his first homily as Pope, and speaking in Italian without a text, Francis noted that the three readings have something in common: “Movement. In the first reading the movement is the journey; in the second the movement is the building of the Church; in the Gospel the movement is in the witness. To walk, to build, to witness.”
The pontiff recalled that the first thing God said to Abraham was: “’Walk in my presence and be blameless.’ Our life is a path. When we stop walking there is something that isn’t right. To walk always in the presence of the Lord, in the light of the Lord, seeking to live the blamelessness that God asks of Abraham in His promise.”
“To build,” he continued, “to construct the Church. This means stones. Stones are solid but these are living stones, stones that are anointed by the Holy Spirit. To build the Church, the Bride of Christ, on the cornerstone that is the Lord himself.”
“To witness … We can walk when we want to, we can build many things, but if we do not witness to Jesus Christ then it doesn’t matter. We might become a philanthropic NGO but we wouldn’t be the Church, the Bride of the Lord. When we don’t go forward we stop…we go backwards. When we don’t build on rock, what happens? The same thing that happens to children when they build sandcastles at the beach. They wind up falling down because they have no solidity.” Then, citing Leon Bloy, the Holy Father affirmed: “Whoever does not pray to God, prays to the devil” because “when we don’t witness to Jesus Christ, we witness to the worldliness of the devil.”
“To walk, to build, to witness. But this is not so easy because when we walk, when we build, when we witness, at times there are upsets, there are movements that aren’t proper to the journey. They are movements that pull us back.”
“In the Gospel,” the Pope continued, “even Peter who confessed Jesus as Christ, says to Him: ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God. I will follow you but let’s not talk about the Cross. That doesn’t have anything to do with it. … I’ll follow you, without the Cross.” But, “when we walk without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, when we profess a Christ without the Cross … we aren’t disciples of the Lord. We are worldly, we are bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.”
“And I wish that all of us, after these grace-filled days, might have the courage, yes, the courage to walk in the Lord’s presence with the Cross of the Lord, to build the Church on the blood of the Lord that is poured out on the Cross and to witness to the sole glory: to the crucified Christ. And thus the Church will move forward.”
“I wish for us all that the Holy Spirit, through the intercession of Mary, our Mother, grant us this grace: to walk, to build, and to witness to Jesus Christ.”
After the homily, the Prayers of the Faithful prayed for the new pontiff and also for His Holiness Benedict XVI, “that he may serve the Church while hidden to the world, in a life dedicated to prayer and meditation.” The also prayed that national leaders “not act with force or for personal interest, not in tyranny over persons, but conscious that every power comes from God.” Finally, they recalled “those who are suffering and those who are lost in the struggles of life. That Christ, the supreme Shepherd, may restore and console them and crown them with glory.”
At the end of the Mass the pontiff visited the papal apartment in the Apostolic Palace.