Francis Homilies - HOLY MASS FOR THE BEGINNING OF THE GENERAL CHAPTER OF THE ORDER OF SAINT AUGUSTINE Wednesday, 28 August 2013
Basilica of St. Augustine in Campo Marzio, Rome
“You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you” (Confessions, 1, 1, 1). With these famous words St Augustine addresses God in his Confessions, and these words sum up his whole life.
“Restlessness”: this word makes an impression on me and sets me thinking. I would like to start with a question: what fundamental restlessness did Augustine live in his life? Or perhaps I should say: what kinds of restlessness does this great and holy man ask us to awaken and to keep alive in our own existence? I am proposing three kinds: the restlessness of spiritual seeking, the restlessness of the encounter with God, the restlessness of love.
1. The first: the restlessness of spiritual seeking. Augustine lived an experience that is fairly common today: common enough among today’s young people. He was raised in the Christian faith by his mother Monica, even though he did not receive Baptism. However, as he grew up he fell away from the faith, failing to find the answer to his questions, to his heart’s desires, and was attracted by other proposals. He then joined a group of Manichaeans, devoted himself diligently to his studies, did not give up carefree pleasures, the spectacles of his time and deep friendships. He experienced intense love and had a brilliant career as a teacher of rhetoric that even took him to the imperial court in Milan. Augustine was a man who had “made it”, he had everything. Nevertheless, his heart still yearned for life’s deep meaning; his heart had not been overcome by sleep. I would say it had not been anaesthetized by success, by things or by power. Augustine did not withdraw into himself, he did not settle down, he continued his quest for the truth, for the meaning of life. He continued to seek God’s face. Of course he made mistakes, he took wrong turns, he sinned, he was a sinner. Yet he retained the restlessness of spiritual seeking. In this way he discovered that God was waiting for him, indeed, that he had never ceased to be the first to seek him. I would like to tell those who feel indifferent to God, to faith, and those who are far from God or who have distanced themselves from him, that we too, with our “distancing” and our “abandonment” of God, that may seem insignificant but are so numerous in our daily life: look into the depths of your heart, look into your own inner depths and ask yourself: do you have a heart that desires something great, or a heart that has been lulled to sleep by things? Has your heart preserved the restlessness of seeking or have you let it be suffocated by things that end by hardening it? God awaits you, he seeks you; how do you respond to him? Are you aware of the situation of your soul? Or have you nodded off? Do you believe God is waiting for you or does this truth consist only of “words”?
2. In Augustine it was this very restlessness in his heart which brought him to a personal encounter with Christ, brought him to understand that the remote God he was seeking was the God who is close to every human being, the God close to our heart, who was “more inward than my innermost self” (cf. ibid. III, 6, 11). However even in the discovery of and encounter with God, Augustine did not stop, he did not give up, he did not withdraw into himself like those who have already arrived, but continued his search. The restlessness of seeking the truth, of seeking God, became the restlessness to know him ever better and of coming out of himself to make others know him. It was precisely the restlessness of love. He would have liked a peaceful life of study and prayer but God called him to be a Pastor in Hippo, in a difficult period, with a split community and war at the gates. And Augustine let God make him restless, he never tired of proclaiming him, of evangelizing with courage and without fear, he sought to be the image of Jesus the Good Shepherd who knows his sheep (cf. Jn 10,14). Indeed, as I like to repeat, he “knew the odour of his sheep”, and went out to search for those that had strayed. Augustine lived as St Paul had instructed Timothy and each one of us: he proclaimed the word, he insisted in season and out of season, he proclaimed the Gospel with a magnanimous heart, with a great heart (cf. 2Tm 4,2), that of a Pastor who is anxious about his sheep. Augustine’s treasure is this very attitude: always going towards God, always going out towards the flock.... He was a man constantly stretched between these poles; never “privatizing” love... always journeying on! Always be on the way, the Father said. As for you, always be restless!
And this is the peace of restlessness. We may ask ourselves: am I anxious for God, anxious to proclaim him, to make him known? Or do I allow that spiritual worldliness to attract me which impels people to do everything for love of themselves? We consecrated people think of our personal interests, of the functionality of our works, of our careers. Eh! We can think of so many things.... Have I, so to speak, “made myself ‘comfy’” in my Christian life, in my priestly life, in my religious life, and also in my community life? Or do I retain the force of restlessness for God, for his Word that makes me “step out” of myself towards others?
3. And let us come to the last kind of restlessness, the anxiety of love. Here I cannot but look at the mother: this Monica! How many tears did that holy woman shed for her son’s conversion! And today too how many mothers shed tears so that their children will return to Christ! Do not lose hope in God’s grace! In the Confessions we read this sentence that a bishop said to St Monica who was asking him to help her son find the road to faith: “it is not possible that the son of so many tears should perish” (III, 12, 21). After his conversion Augustine himself, addressing God, wrote: “my mother, your faithful one, wept before you on my behalf more than mothers are wont to weep the bodily death of their children” (ibid., III, 11, 19). A restless woman, this woman who at the end of her life said these beautiful words: “cumulatius hoc mihi Deus praestitit!” [my God has exceeded my expectations abundantly] (ibid., IX, 10, 26). God lavishly rewarded her tearful request! And Augustine was Monica’s heir, from her he received the seed of restlessness. This, then, is the restlessness of love: ceaselessly seeking the good of the other, of the beloved, without ever stopping and with the intensity that leads even to tears. Then I think of Jesus weeping at the tomb of his friend Lazarus; of Peter who, after denying Jesus, encounters his gaze full of mercy and love, weeps bitterly, and of the father who waits on the terrace for his son’s return and when he spies him still far off runs to meet him; the Virgin Mary comes to mind lovingly following her Son Jesus even to the Cross. Do we feel the restlessness of love? Do we believe in love for God and for others? Or are we unconcerned by this? Not in an abstract manner, not only in words, but as a real brother to those we come across, the brother who is beside us! Are we moved by their needs or do we remain closed in on ourselves, in our communities which are often “handy communities” for us? At times we can live in a building without knowing our next door neighbour; or we can be in a community without really knowing our own confreres: I think sorrowfully of the consecrated people who are infertile “old bachelors”. The restlessness of love is always an incentive to go towards the other, without waiting for the other to manifest his need. The restlessness of love gives us the gift of pastoral fecundity, and we must ask ourselves, each one of us: is my spiritual fecundity healthy, is my apostolate fertile?
Let us ask the Lord for you, dear Augustinians who are beginning your General Chapter, and for all of us, that he keep in our hearts the spiritual restlessness that prompts us to seek him always, the restlessness to proclaim him courageously, the restlessness of love for every brother and sister. So be it.
“And God saw that it was good” (Gn 1,12 Gn 1,18 Gn 1,21 Gn 1,25). The biblical account of the beginning of the history of the world and of humanity speaks to us of a God who looks at creation, in a sense contemplating it, and declares: “It is good”. This, dear brothers and sisters, allows us to enter into God’s heart and, precisely from within him, to receive his message.
We can ask ourselves: what does this message mean? What does it say to me, to you, to all of us?
1. It says to us simply that this, our world, in the heart and mind of God, is the “house of harmony and peace”, and that it is the space in which everyone is able to find their proper place and feel “at home”, because it is “good”. All of creation forms a harmonious and good unity, but above all humanity, made in the image and likeness of God, is one family, in which relationships are marked by a true fraternity not only in words: the other person is a brother or sister to love, and our relationship with God, who is love, fidelity and goodness, mirrors every human relationship and brings harmony to the whole of creation. God’s world is a world where everyone feels responsible for the other, for the good of the other. This evening, in reflection, fasting and prayer, each of us deep down should ask ourselves: Is this really the world that I desire? Is this really the world that we all carry in our hearts? Is the world that we want really a world of harmony and peace, in ourselves, in our relations with others, in families, in cities, in and between nations? And does not true freedom mean choosing ways in this world that lead to the good of all and are guided by love?
2. But then we wonder: Is this the world in which we are living? Creation retains its beauty which fills us with awe and it remains a good work. But there is also “violence, division, disagreement, war”. This occurs when man, the summit of creation, stops contemplating beauty and goodness, and withdraws into his own selfishness.
When man thinks only of himself, of his own interests and places himself in the centre, when he permits himself to be captivated by the idols of dominion and power, when he puts himself in God’s place, then all relationships are broken and everything is ruined; then the door opens to violence, indifference, and conflict. This is precisely what the passage in the Book of Genesis seeks to teach us in the story of the Fall: man enters into conflict with himself, he realizes that he is naked and he hides himself because he is afraid (cf. Gn 3,10), he is afraid of God’s glance; he accuses the woman, she who is flesh of his flesh (cf. Gn 3,12); he breaks harmony with creation, he begins to raise his hand against his brother to kill him. Can we say that from harmony he passes to “disharmony”? No, there is no such thing as “disharmony”; there is either harmony or we fall into chaos, where there is violence, argument, conflict, fear ....
It is exactly in this chaos that God asks man’s conscience: “Where is Abel your brother?” and Cain responds: “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gn 4,9). We too are asked this question, it would be good for us to ask ourselves as well: Am I really my brother’s keeper? Yes, you are your brother’s keeper! To be human means to care for one another! But when harmony is broken, a metamorphosis occurs: the brother who is to be cared for and loved becomes an adversary to fight, to kill. What violence occurs at that moment, how many conflicts, how many wars have marked our history! We need only look at the suffering of so many brothers and sisters. This is not a question of coincidence, but the truth: we bring about the rebirth of Cain in every act of violence and in every war. All of us! And even today we continue this history of conflict between brothers, even today we raise our hands against our brother. Even today, we let ourselves be guided by idols, by selfishness, by our own interests, and this attitude persists. We have perfected our weapons, our conscience has fallen asleep, and we have sharpened our ideas to justify ourselves. As if it were normal, we continue to sow destruction, pain, death! Violence and war lead only to death, they speak of death! Violence and war are the language of death!
After the chaos of the flood, when it stopped raining, a rainbow appeared and the dove returned with an olive branch. Today, I think also of that olive tree which representatives of various religions planted in the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires in 2000, asking that there be no more chaos, asking that there be no more war, asking for peace.
3. And at this point I ask myself: Is it possible to walk the path of peace? Can we get out of this spiral of sorrow and death? Can we learn once again to walk and live in the ways of peace? Invoking the help of God, under the maternal gaze of the Salus Populi Romani, Queen of Peace, I say: Yes, it is possible for everyone! From every corner of the world tonight, I would like to hear us cry out: Yes, it is possible for everyone! Or even better, I would like for each one of us, from the least to the greatest, including those called to govern nations, to respond: Yes, we want it! My Christian faith urges me to look to the Cross. How I wish that all men and women of good will would look to the Cross if only for a moment! There, we can see God’s reply: violence is not answered with violence, death is not answered with the language of death. In the silence of the Cross, the uproar of weapons ceases and the language of reconciliation, forgiveness, dialogue, and peace is spoken. This evening, I ask the Lord that we Christians, and our brothers and sisters of other religions, and every man and woman of good will, cry out forcefully: violence and war are never the way to peace! Let everyone be moved to look into the depths of his or her conscience and listen to that word which says: Leave behind the self-interest that hardens your heart, overcome the indifference that makes your heart insensitive towards others, conquer your deadly reasoning, and open yourself to dialogue and reconciliation. Look upon your brother’s sorrow – I think of the children: look upon these… look at the sorrow of your brother, stay your hand and do not add to it, rebuild the harmony that has been shattered; and all this achieved not by conflict but by encounter! May the noise of weapons cease! War always marks the failure of peace, it is always a defeat for humanity. Let the words of Pope Paul VI resound again: “No more one against the other, no more, never! ... war never again, never again war!” (Address to the United Nations, 1965). “Peace expresses itself only in peace, a peace which is not separate from the demands of justice but which is fostered by personal sacrifice, clemency, mercy and love” (World Day of Peace Message, 1975). Brothers and Sisters, forgiveness, dialogue, reconciliation – these are the words of peace, in beloved Syria, in the Middle East, in all the world! Let us pray this evening for reconciliation and peace, let us work for reconciliation and peace, and let us all become, in every place, men and women of reconciliation and peace! So may it be.
HOLY MASS AT THE SHRINE OF "OUR LADY OF BONARIA"
Square in front of the Shrine of Our Lady of Bonaria, Cagliari
Sa paghe ‘e Nostru Segnore siat sempre chin bois
Today the desire to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Bonaria, that I had announced in St Peter’s Square before the summer began, has come true.
1. I have come to share with you the joys and hopes, the struggles and responsibilities, the ideals and aspirations of your island, and to strengthen you in the faith. Here in Cagliari, as in all Sardinia, there is no lack of difficulties — there are so many — of problems and concerns. I am thinking especially of the lack of work and of job insecurity, and therefore of uncertainty about the future. Your beautiful region of Sardinia has long suffered from many situations of poverty, which have been worsened by its condition as an island. The faithful collaboration of everyone, along with the responsible commitment of institutions — including the Church — is necessary in order to guarantee that fundamental rights are accorded to persons and to families, and in order to foster a more stable and fraternal society. The right to work, the right to bring home bread, bread earned through work must be guaranteed! I am close to you! I am close to you, I remember you in prayer and I encourage you to persevere in bearing witness to the human and Christian values that are so deeply rooted in the faith and history of this land and of its people. May you always keep the light of hope burning!
2. I have come among you to place myself, together with you, at the feet of Our Lady, who gives us her Son. I am well aware that Mary, our Mother, is very much in your hearts, as this Shrine testifies, to which many generations of Sardinians have climbed — and will continue to climb! — in order to invoke the protection of Our Lady of Bonaria, Principle Patroness of the Island. Here you bring the joys and sufferings of this land, of your families, and even of those of its children who live far away, who have left with great pain and longing, in order to find work and a future for themselves and for those who are dear to them. Today, we who gather here want thank Mary, because she is always near to us. We want to renew our trust and our love for her.
The first Reading we heard shows us Mary in prayer, in the Upper Room, together with the Apostles. Mary prays, she prays together with the community of the disciples, and she teaches us to have complete trust in God and in his mercy. This is the power of prayer! Let us never tire of knocking at God's door. Everyday through Mary let us carry our entire life to God's heart! Knock at the door of God's heart!
In the Gospel, however, we take in Jesus’ last gaze upon his Mother (cf. Jn 19,25-27). From the Cross, Jesus looks at his Mother and entrusts her to the Apostle John, saying: This is your son. We are all present in John, even us, and Jesus’ look of love entrusts us to the maternal care of the Mother. Mary would have remembered another look of love, when she was a girl: the gaze of God the Father, who looked upon her humility, her littleness. Mary teaches us that God does not abandon us; he can do great things even with our weaknesses. Let us trust in him! Let us knock at the door of his heart!
3. The third thought: today I have come among you; or rather, we have come together, to encounter the gaze of Mary, since there, as it were, is reflected the gaze of the Father, who made her the Mother of God, and the gaze of the Son on the Cross, who made her our Mother. It is with that gaze that Mary watches us today. We need her tender gaze, her maternal gaze, which knows us better than anyone else, her gaze full of compassion and care. Mary, today we want to tell you: Mother grant us your gaze! Your gaze leads us to God, your gaze is a gift of the good Father who waits for us at every turn of our path, it is a gift of Jesus Christ on the Cross, who takes upon himself our sufferings, our struggles, our sin. And in order to meet this Father who is full of love, today we say to her: Mother, give us your gaze! Let’s say it all together: “Mother, grant us your gaze!”. “Mother, grant us your gaze!”.
Along our path, which is often difficult, we are not alone. We are so many, we are a people, and the gaze of Our Lady helps us to look at one another as brothers and sisters. Let us look upon one another in a more fraternal way! Mary teaches us to have that gaze which strives to welcome, to accompany and to protect. Let us learn to look at one another beneath Mary's maternal gaze! There are people whom we instinctively consider less and who instead are in greater need: the most abandoned, the sick, those who have nothing to live on, those who do not know Jesus, youth who find themselves in difficulty, young people who cannot find work. Let us not be afraid to go out and to look upon our brothers and sisters with Our Lady's gaze. She invites us to be true brothers and sisters. And let us never allow something or someone to come between us and Our Lady’s gaze. Mother, grant us your gaze! May no one hide from it! May our childlike heart know how to defend itself from the many “windbags” who make false promises? from those who have a gaze greedy for an easy life and full of promises that cannot be fulfilled. May they not rob us of Mary’s gaze, which is full of tenderness, which gives us strength and builds solidarity among us. Let us say together: Mother, grant us your gaze! Mother, grant us your gaze! Mother, grant us your gaze!
Nostra Segnora ‘e Bonaria bos acumpanzet sempre in sa vida.
Saint Peter's Square
1. “Woe to the complacent in Zion, to those who feel secure … lying upon beds of ivory!” (Am 6,1 Am 6,4). They eat, they drink, they sing, they play and they care nothing about other people’s troubles.
These are harsh words which the prophet Amos speaks, yet they warn us about a danger that all of us face. What is it that this messenger of God denounces; what does he want his contemporaries, and ourselves today, to realize? The danger of complacency, comfort, worldliness in our lifestyles and in our hearts, of making our well-being the most important thing in our lives. This was the case of the rich man in the Gospel, who dressed in fine garments and daily indulged in sumptuous banquets; this was what was important for him. And the poor man at his doorstep who had nothing to relieve his hunger? That was none of his business, it didn’t concern him. Whenever material things, money, worldliness, become the centre of our lives, they take hold of us, they possess us; we lose our very identity as human beings. Think of it: the rich man in the Gospel has no name, he is simply “a rich man”. Material things, his possessions, are his face; he has nothing else.
Let’s try to think: How does something like this happen? How do some people, perhaps ourselves included, end up becoming self-absorbed and finding security in material things which ultimately rob us of our face, our human face? This is what happens when we become complacent, when we no longer remember God. “Woe to the complacent in Zion”, says the prophet. If we don’t think about God, everything ends up flat, everything ends up being about “me” and my own comfort. Life, the world, other people, all of these become unreal, they no longer matter, everything boils down to one thing: having. When we no longer remember God, we too become unreal, we too become empty; like the rich man in the Gospel, we no longer have a face! Those who run after nothing become nothing – as another great prophet Jeremiah, observed (cf. Jr 2,5). We are made in God’s image and likeness, not the image and likeness of material objects, of idols!
2. So, as I look out at you, I think: Who are catechists? They are people who keep the memory of God alive; they keep it alive in themselves and they are able to revive it in others. This is something beautiful: to remember God, like the Virgin Mary, who sees God’s wondrous works in her life but doesn’t think about honour, prestige or wealth; she doesn’t become self-absorbed. Instead, after receiving the message of the angel and conceiving the Son of God, what does she do? She sets out, she goes to assist her elderly kinswoman Elizabeth, who was also pregnant. And the first thing she does upon meeting Elizabeth is to recall God’s work, God’s fidelity, in her own life, in the history of her people, in our history: “My soul magnifies the Lord … For he has looked on the lowliness of his servant … His mercy is from generation to generation” (Lc 1,46 Lc 1,48 Lc 1,50). Mary remembers God.
This canticle of Mary also contains the remembrance of her personal history, God’s history with her, her own experience of faith. And this is true too for each one of us and for every Christian: faith contains our own memory of God’s history with us, the memory of our encountering God who always takes the first step, who creates, saves and transforms us. Faith is remembrance of his word which warms our heart, and of his saving work which gives life, purifies us, cares for and nourishes us. A catechist is a Christian who puts this remembrance at the service of proclamation, not to seem important, not to talk about himself or herself, but to talk about God, about his love and his fidelity. To talk about and to pass down all that God has revealed, his teaching in its totality, neither trimming it down nor adding on to it.
Saint Paul recommends one thing in particular to his disciple and co-worker Timothy: Remember, remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, whom I proclaim and for whom I suffer (cf. 2Tm 2,8-9). The Apostle can say this because he too remembered Christ, who called him when he was persecuting Christians, who touched him and transformed him by his grace.
The catechist, then, is a Christian who is mindful of God, who is guided by the memory of God in his or her entire life and who is able to awaken that memory in the hearts of others. This is not easy! It engages our entire existence! What is the Catechism itself, if not the memory of God, the memory of his works in history and his drawing near to us in Christ present in his word, in the sacraments, in his Church, in his love? Dear catechists, I ask you: Are we in fact the memory of God? Are we really like sentinels who awaken in others the memory of God which warms the heart?
3. “Woe to the complacent in Zion!”, says the prophet. What must we do in order not to be “complacent” – people who find their security in themselves and in material things – but men and woman of the memory of God? In the second reading, Saint Paul, once more writing to Timothy, gives some indications which can also be guideposts for us in our work as catechists: pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness (cf. 1Tm 6,11).
Catechists are men and women of the memory of God if they have a constant, living relationship with him and with their neighbour; if they are men and women of faith who truly trust in God and put their security in him; if they are men and women of charity, love, who see others as brothers and sisters; if they are men and women of “hypomoné”, endurance and perseverance, able to face difficulties, trials and failures with serenity and hope in the Lord; if they are gentle, capable of understanding and mercy.
Let us ask the Lord that we may all be men and women who keep the memory of God alive in ourselves, and are able to awaken it in the hearts of others. Amen.
“I give you thanks, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding, and revealed them to babes” (Mt 11,25).
Peace and all good to each and every one of you! With this Franciscan greeting I thank you for being here, in this Square so full of history and faith, to pray together.
Today, I too have come, like countless other pilgrims, to give thanks to the Father for all that he wished to reveal to one of the “little ones” mentioned in today’s Gospel: Francis, the son of a wealthy merchant of Assisi. His encounter with Jesus led him to strip himself of an easy and carefree life in order to espouse “Lady Poverty” and to live as a true son of our heavenly Father. This decision of Saint Francis was a radical way of imitating Christ: he clothed himself anew, putting on Christ, who, though he was rich, became poor in order to make us rich by his poverty (cf. 2Co 8,9). In all of Francis’ life, love for the poor and the imitation of Christ in his poverty were inseparably united, like the two sides of the same coin.
What does Saint Francis’s witness tell us today? What does he have to say to us, not merely with words – that is easy enough – but by his life?
1. The first thing he tells us is this: that being a Christian means having a living relationship with the person of Jesus; it means putting on Christ, being conformed to him.
Where did Francis’s journey to Christ begin? It began with the gaze of the crucified Jesus.With letting Jesus look at us at the very moment that he gives his life for us and draws us to himself. Francis experienced this in a special way in the Church of San Damiano, as he prayed before the cross which I too will have an opportunity to venerate. On that cross, Jesus is depicted not as dead, but alive! Blood is flowing from his wounded hands, feet and side, but that blood speaks of life. Jesus’ eyes are not closed but open, wide open: he looks at us in a way that touches our hearts. The cross does not speak to us about defeat and failure; paradoxically, it speaks to us about a death which is life, a death which gives life, for it speaks to us of love, the love of God incarnate, a love which does not die, but triumphs over evil and death. When we let the crucified Jesus gaze upon us, we are re-created, we become “a new creation”. Everything else starts with this: the experience of transforming grace, the experience of being loved for no merits of our own, in spite of our being sinners. That is why Saint Francis could say with Saint Paul: “Far be it for me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ga 6,14).
We turn to you, Francis, and we ask you: Teach us to remain before the cross, to let the crucified Christ gaze upon us, to let ourselves be forgiven, and recreated by his love.
2. In today’s Gospel we heard these words: “Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart” (Mt 11,28-29).
This is the second witness that Francis gives us: that everyone who follows Christ receives true peace, the peace that Christ alone can give, a peace which the world cannot give. Many people, when they think of Saint Francis, think of peace; very few people however go deeper. What is the peace which Francis received, experienced and lived, and which he passes on to us? It is the peace of Christ, which is born of the greatest love of all, the love of the cross. It is the peace which the Risen Jesus gave to his disciples when he stood in their midst (cf. Jn 20,19-20).
Franciscan peace is not something saccharine. Hardly! That is not the real Saint Francis! Nor is it a kind of pantheistic harmony with forces of the cosmos… That is not Franciscan either! It is not Franciscan, but a notion that some people have invented! The peace of Saint Francis is the peace of Christ, and it is found by those who “take up” their “yoke”, namely, Christ’s commandment: Love one another as I have loved you (cf. Jn 13,34 Jn 15,12). This yoke cannot be borne with arrogance, presumption or pride, but only with meekness and humbleness of heart.
We turn to you, Francis, and we ask you: Teach us to be “instruments of peace”, of that peace which has its source in God, the peace which Jesus has brought us.
3. Francis began the Canticle of the Creatures with these words: “Praised may you be, Most High, All-powerful God, good Lord… by all your creatures (FF, 1820). Love for all creation, for its harmony. Saint Francis of Assisi bears witness to the need to respect all that God has created and as he created it, without manipulating and destroying creation; rather to help it grow, to become more beautiful and more like what God created it to be. And above all, Saint Francis witnesses to respect for everyone, he testifies that each of us is called to protect our neighbour, that the human person is at the centre of creation, at the place where God – our creator – willed that we should be. Not at the mercy of the idols we have created! Harmony and peace! Francis was a man of harmony and peace. From this City of Peace, I repeat with all the strength and the meekness of love: Let us respect creation, let us not be instruments of destruction! Let us respect each human being. May there be an end to armed conflicts which cover the earth with blood; may the clash of arms be silenced; and everywhere may hatred yield to love, injury to pardon, and discord to unity. Let us listen to the cry of all those who are weeping, who are suffering and who are dying because of violence, terrorism or war, in the Holy Land, so dear to Saint Francis, in Syria, throughout the Middle East and everywhere in the world.
We turn to you, Francis, and we ask you: Obtain for us God’s gift of harmony, peace and respect for creation!
Finally, I cannot forget the fact that today Italy celebrates Saint Francis as her patron saint.I greet all the Italian people, represented by the Head of Government, who is present among us. The traditional offering of oil for the votive lamp, which this year is given by the Region of Umbria, is an expression of this. Let us pray for Italy, that everyone will always work for the common good, and look more to what unites us, rather than what divides us.
I make my own the prayer of Saint Francis for Assisi, for Italy and for the world: “I pray to you, Lord Jesus Christ, Father of mercies: Do not look upon our ingratitude, but always keep in mind the surpassing goodness which you have shown to this City. Grant that it may always be the home of men and women who know you in truth and who glorify your most holy and glorious name, now and for all ages. Amen.” (The Mirror of Perfection, 124: FF, 1824).
Francis Homilies - HOLY MASS FOR THE BEGINNING OF THE GENERAL CHAPTER OF THE ORDER OF SAINT AUGUSTINE Wednesday, 28 August 2013