From the Vatican
Pope Denounces “Slanderous Communication” of Dictatorships
By Robin Gomes
June 18, 2018 (Vatican Media) If you want to destroy institutions or people, you start by speaking ill of them. This is the “slanderous communication” that Pope Francis exhorted Christians to watch out against in his homily at Mass Monday morning in the chapel of the Vatican’s Casa Santa Marta residence.
Slander makes martyrs of innocents
The Pope was reflecting on the episode in the First Book of Kings, where Jezebel, the cruel wife of King Ahab of Samaria, used slander and falsehood to have Naboth killed in order to take possession of his vineyard which her husband greatly coveted.
The Pope described Naboth as a “martyr of fidelity to the inheritance" that he had received from his forefathers: "an inheritance of the heart".
He said the story of Naboth is repeated in the story of Jesus, Saint Stephen and all the martyrs who were falsely condemned with slander. The episode also reflects the ways of “many heads of state or government". One begins with a lie and, "after having destroyed both a person and a situation with slander", one judges and condemns them.
Dictatorship of evil communication
Pope Francis pointed out that even today this method of slanderous communication is used in many countries. Media and communication law is brushed aside with the entire communication system handed to a company or a group that weakens democratic life with slander and falsehood. The judges then condemn these weakened institutions and destroyed people. That’s how dictatorship works, the Pope said.
The Pope said all dictatorships began by adulterating communication by putting it in the hands of an unscrupulous person or government.
The seduction of scandals
This also happens in daily life, the Pope pointed out, saying one begins to destroy a person by starting with communication – speaking ill of others, slandering and spreading scandals, which he said have great seductive power.
Good news doesn’t seduce, it passes by, but a scandal draws attention. This is how a person, institution and country ends up in ruins.
The Pope said many persons and nations have been destroyed by evil and slanderous dictatorships, such as in the last century. He particularly pointed to the example of the persecution of Jews, who because of a slanderous communication did not deserve to live and thus ended up at Auschwitz.
Calling it a horror, the Pope said it happens even today in small societies, in persons and in many countries.
The Pope said James the Apostle speaks precisely of the "destructive capacity of evil communication". The Holy Father thus exhorted Christians to re-read the episode of Naboth and think of the many people and countries destroyed by dictatorships of 'white gloves'.
Pope at Angelus: The Kingdom of God Grows Mysteriously
By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
June 17, 2018 (Vatican Media) Pope Francis reflected on the two parables regarding the “Kingdom of God and its dynamic growth” from the Sunday Gospel (Mark 4:26-34) before reciting the Angelus on Sunday before thousands gathered in St Peter's Square.
The Kingdom grows by its own power
Jesus uses the first parable (Mark 26-29) to compare the Kingdom of God to “the mysterious growth of a seed” which is sown, sprouts, grows and produces grain “independent of the care of the farmer”, the Pope said. The message is that the kingdom of God has “erupted on the field of the world”, through Jesus’ preaching and action. The Kingdom grows and develops not as a work of human labor but “of its own power, and according to criteria that are humanly speaking indecipherable…. [It] is above all an expression of the power and the goodness of God”, Pope Francis said.
The Kingdom grows mysteriously
When human history seems to develop contrary to the will of God, the Pope said that “we are called to live this period as a season of trial, of hope and in vigilant waiting for the harvest”. The Kingdom grows mysteriously; its power is hidden in a small seed that is filled with “victorious vitality”. When times are dark, we need to trust in “God’s quiet but powerful action,” and “remain anchored in God’s faithfulness, in his presence which always saves”, he said.
The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed
The meaning of this parable is “the logic God’s unpredictability” which is not easy for us to accept. Jesus invites us to a faith that exceeds calculation and forecasts. “It is an invitation to open ourselves with greater generosity to God’s plans over our own personal … plans”. The Lord offers us occasions “to be involved in his dynamics of love, of welcoming, and of mercy toward all”. It is up to us to be aware of those opportunities.
The Pope concluded his reflection saying that “courageously moving forward in trust and humble abandonment in God” is the means by which we can judge the “authenticity of the mission of the Church”. Placing ourselves in God’s hands, aware of “being small and weak instruments”, we can accomplish great works” and allow “his Kingdom —a kingdom of justice, peace and joy in the Spirit—to progress”.
Pope at Mass: Exploiting Women is a Sin Against God
By Susy Hodges
June 15, 2018 (Vatican Media) In his homily at Mass in the Santa Marta residence, Pope Francis reflects on the exploitation of women today who are treated like objects, recalling that without women men cannot be the image and likeness of God. Taking his inspiration from the gospel reading from Matthew where Christ said that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery. He lamented how so many females are used and cast aside and spoke of the young women who are forced to sell their own dignity in order to earn a living.
Jesus changed history
The Pope reminded his listeners that women are what men on their own lack to be the image and likeness of God. He explained how Jesus’ words about women were radical and ground-breaking and “changed history.” This was because up until then, a woman was considered “a second class citizen,” she was “enslaved” and “did not even enjoy complete freedom,” he said.
Jesus' doctrine about women changes history. Before Jesus the view about women was one thing but after Jesus they are another. Jesus dignifies women and puts them on the same level as men because he takes that first word of the Creator, both are "the image and likeness of God", both of them; not first the man and then a little lower down the woman, no, both are. And a man without a woman beside him - whether as a mother, as a sister, as a bride, as a working companion, as a friend - that man by himself is not the image of God.
Woman today are objects of desire even in our own societies
Reflecting in particular on the gospel words about men desiring women, Pope Francis lamented how we see women treated as objects of desire in the media and those same images of women are often used to sell a product and we see her “humiliated” or “wearing no clothes.” The Pope went on to point out how this exploitation of women is not happening in far off places but right here all around us, where we live and in the workplace. Women are the victims of that “use and throw away mentality” and don't even seem to be treated as “a person,” he said.
This is a sin against God the Creator, rejecting women because without her we men cannot be the image and likeness of God. There is an anger and resentment against women, a nasty anger. Even without saying it... But how many times do young women have to sell themselves as disposable objects in order to get a job? How many times? "Yes, Father, I heard in that country..." Here in Rome. There’s no need to go far away.
Look around us to see that exploitation
Turning to the issue of the sexual exploitation of women, Pope Francis asked his listeners what they would see if they took a walk at night around certain areas of the city where so many women including migrant women are being exploited like in a market. He went on to point out that when men approach these women on the streets they are not saying “Hello” to them but asking how much they cost and they salve their consciences by referring to them as prostitutes.
All this happens here in Rome, it happens in every city, anonymous women, women - we can describe as "faceless" because shame covers their faces, women who do not know how to laugh and many of them do not know the joy of breastfeeding their baby and the experience of being a mother. But, even in our everyday life, without going to those places, there is this ugly way of thinking, of rejecting women or seeing her as a "second class" person. We need to reflect more deeply about this. And by doing this or saying this, by entering into this way of thinking, we despise the image of God, who made man and woman together with his image and likeness. This Gospel reading helps us to think about the marketing of women, a trade, yes, trafficking, that exploitation which is visible but also that trade which we can’t see but is taking place out of sight. A woman is trampled underfoot precisely because she is a woman.
The Pope concluded his homily by stressing how during his ministry Jesus encountered so many women who were despised, marginalized and cast aside and with great tenderness he restored their dignity. Jesus had a mother and “many female friends who followed him to help him in his ministry” and to “provide support,” he said.
Pope Francis: ‘Migration Can Enrich Society’
By Devin Watkins
June 14, 2018 (Vatican Media) Pope Francis on Thursday said the “life experiences and values” of migrants can contribute to the enrichment of society. In a message to the 2nd Holy See – Mexico Conference on International Migration, Pope Francis says migrants are people, not numbers.
The Pope’s message was read out by Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States, at the event in the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences.
Migrants: enrichment to society
Pope Francis encouraged participants in their efforts “to ground responsibility for the shared global management of international migration in the values of justice, solidarity, and compassion.”
He said a change of mindset is required to see migrants as a benefit to society.
“We must move from considering others as threats to our comfort to valuing them as persons whose life experience and values can contribute greatly to the enrichment of our society,” he said.
The Pope said we are called “to encounter the other, to welcome, to know, and to acknowledge him or her.”
Persons, not numbers
Pope Francis told the conference that the main issue surrounding migration is not one of numbers but of persons, who have their own culture and aspirations.
“These persons, our brothers and sisters,” he said, “need ‘ongoing protection’, independently of whatever migrant status they may have.”
Tear down walls
He said their fundamental rights and dignity must be protected, especially those of migrant children.
“All of them hope that we will have the courage to tear down the wall of ‘comfortable and silent complicity’ that worsens their helplessness; they are waiting for us to show them concern, compassion, and devotion,” he said.
Finally, Pope Francis said migrants should be accepted “as our brothers and sisters” and given an opportunity “to live in dignity and peace.”
Pope: Pursue the Path of True Life, True Love, True Wealth
By Linda Bordoni
June 13, 2018 (Vatican Media) Young people should be hungry for an authentic Christian life and adults should set an example. This message was at the heart of Pope Francis’ catechesis on Wednesday morning in St. Peter’s Square.
Addressing those present in St. Peter’s Square for the General Audience, the Pope reflected on the Gospel passage of the day in which a young man asked Jesus: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“That question, he explained, contains the challenge of every existence: we all wish for a full and eternal life. But what path must we walk to achieve one?”
Don’t be fainthearted
With a specific appeal to the young, Pope Francis pointed out that concrete problems, however serious or dramatic, do not pose the greatest challenges.
“The greatest challenge in life” he said is to avoid being mediocre and fainthearted: if a young person settles for a life of bland mediocrity, even if he or she follows the rules, he will not live a full and authentic existence.
“We must ask the Lord to give today’s youth the gift of healthy restlessness” he said, stressing that young people must hunger for a life of fulfillment and beauty.
Accept your limits
Pope Francis recalled that Jesus tells the young man to follow the Commandments, but then points him to something greater, because it is clear that the young man does not have a full life.
He said that the transition from youth to maturity takes place when one begins to “accept one’s limits” and becomes aware of what is lacking.
No to Christians with shrunken hearts
Jesus, the Pope said, invited the young man who has always obeyed the Commandments to take an extra step, sell what he possesses, give to the poor and follow him, with the promise that in this way he will have “treasure in heaven.”
Inviting those present to choose the rich and fulfilling life offered to us by Jesus, he said “it is not nice to meet ‘faint-hearted Christians’, those with ‘shrunken hearts’ who are happy with not going the whole way.
This story shows us that Jesus came, “not to abolish the Law but to fulfil it” Francis explained, because the Lord wishes to give us something greater.
Thus, he explained, the young man had reached a threshold and was challenged to take a leap whereby the possibility of ceasing to live only for himself and to embrace Jesus’s offer for “true wealth” became a concrete reality.
Here's the challenge, Francis said: pursue the path of true life, true love, true wealth!
Francis concluded saying that in the new series of catechesis “we will take Moses’ two stone tablets” and walking in the footsteps of Jesus we will discover the door through which we can follow Him to the fullness of life: his life and our life as God’s children.
Pope at Mass: ‘Christian Witness is Being Salt, Light’
June 12, 2018 (Vatican Media)In his homily at Mass in the Casa Santa Marta on Tuesday, Pope Francis said Christian witness is meant to edify others and not to serve as path to self-promotion.
The Holy Father said Christians are called to provide “simple, habitual witness” to Jesus, calling it “everyday holiness.”
Christian witness, he said, can mean giving one’s life in martyrdom, after Jesus’ example. But he said, another path is to point to Christ in our everyday actions, when we wake, work, and go to bed.
“It seems like such a small thing,” he said, “but miracles are done through small things.”
Salt and light for others
Pope Francis said Christian witness must be grounded in humility, which means being simple salt and light for others.
“Salt for others; light for others: Because salt does not give flavor to itself but serves others. Light does not illuminate itself but serves others… Supermarkets sell salt in small quantities, not by the ton. And salt does not promote itself because it doesn’t serve itself. It exists to serve others, by conserving things and giving flavor. This is simple witness.”
No personal merit
The Pope said daily Christian witness means being light for others, “to help them in their darkest hour.”
“The Lord says: ‘You are salt; you are light.’… But do so in order that others see and glorify God. You will not even receive any merit. When we eat, we don’t compliment the salt. No, we say the pasta or meat is good… When we go to sleep at night, we don’t say the light is good. We ignore the light, but we live illuminated by light. This impels Christians to be anonymous witnesses.”
Finally, Pope Francis warned us against acting like the Pharisee who thanks the Lord for his holiness. “We are not the authors of our own merits.”
“Everyday holiness”, he said, means being salt and light for others.
Pope Francis: ‘The Holy Spirit – Protagonist of Evangelization’
By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
June 11, 2018 (Vatican Media) In his homily on Monday, the Memorial of St. Barnabas, Pope Francis explained that evangelization has three fundamental dimensions: proclamation, service and gratuitousness.
The readings for the Memorial of St Barnabas (Acts 11:21-26; 12: 1-3 and Matthew 10:7-13) demonstrate that the Holy Spirit is the “protagonist” of the Gospel proclamation, Pope Francis said. That proclamation is unlike other types of communication. Due to the action of the Holy Spirit, it has the power “to change hearts”. There have been pastoral plans that seem to be perfect, Pope Francis said. “They were incapable of changing hearts” because they were ends in themselves. “They were not instruments of evangelization”, the Pope said.
It is not with an entrepreneurial attitude that Jesus sends us…. No, it is with the Holy Spirit. This is courage. The true courage behind evangelization is not human stubbornness. No, it is the Spirit who gives us courage and who carries you forward.
Pope Francis sees service as the second dimension of evangelization. In fact, he said that pursuing a career or success "in the Church is a sure sign that someone doesn’t know what evangelization is…for the one who commands must be the one who serves”. The Pope continued:
We can say good things but without service it is not proclamation. It may seem to be, but it is not, because the Spirit not only carries you forward to proclaim the truths of the Lord and the life of the Lord, but He also brings you to the service of the brothers and sisters, even in small things. It’s awful when you find evangelizers who make others serve them and who live to be served. They are like the princes of evangelization – how awful.
The Gospel is gratuitous
Pope Francis presented gratuitousness as the third aspect of evangelization because no one can be redeemed by his or her own merit. The Lord reminds us, “Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give” (Matthew 10:8).
All of us have been saved gratuitously by Jesus Christ. Therefore, we must give gratuitously. Those who carry out the pastoral work of evangelization must learn this. Their life must be gratuitous, given in service, proclamation, borne by the Spirit. Their personal poverty forces them to open themselves up to the Spirit.