Holy Mass for the Conclusion of the Year of Faith on the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the UniverseRead Now
Homily of Pope Francis
Saint Peter's Square
Sunday, 24 November 2013
Today’s solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, the crowning of the liturgical year, also marks the conclusion of the Year of Faith opened by Pope Benedict XVI, to whom our thoughts now turn with affection and gratitude for this gift which he has given us. By this providential initiative, he gave us an opportunity to rediscover the beauty of the journey of faith begun on the day of our Baptism, which made us children of God and brothers and sisters in the Church. A journey which has as its ultimate end our full encounter with God, and throughout which the Holy Spirit purifies us, lifts us up and sanctifies us, so that we may enter into the happiness for which our hearts long.
I offer a cordial and fraternal greeting to the Patriarchs and Major Archbishops of the Eastern Catholic Churches present. The exchange of peace which I will share with them is above all a sign of the appreciation of the Bishop of Rome for these communities which have confessed the name of Christ with exemplary faithfulness, often at a high price.
With this gesture, through them, I would like to reach all those Christians living in the Holy Land, in Syria and in the entire East, and obtain for them the gift of peace and concord.
The Scripture readings proclaimed to us have as their common theme the centrality of Christ. Christ is at the centre, Christ is the centre. Christ is the centre of creation, Christ is the centre of his people and Christ is the centre of history.
1. The apostle Paul, in the second reading, taken from the letter to the Colossians, offers us a profound vision of the centrality of Jesus. He presents Christ to us as the first-born of all creation: in him, through him and for him all things were created. He is the centre of all things, he is the beginning: Jesus Christ, the Lord. God has given him the fullness, the totality, so that in him all things might be reconciled (cf. Col 1:12-20). He is the Lord of creation, he is the Lord of reconciliation.
This image enables to see that Jesus is the centre of creation; and so the attitude demanded of us as true believers is that of recognizing and accepting in our lives the centrality of Jesus Christ, in our thoughts, in our words and in our works. And so our thoughts will be Christian thoughts, thoughts of Christ. Our works will be Christian works, works of Christ; and our words will be Christian words, words of Christ. But when this centre is lost, when it is replaced by something else, only harm can result for everything around us and for ourselves.
2. Besides being the centre of creation and the centre of reconciliation, Christ is the centre of the people of God. Today, he is here in our midst. He is here right now in his word, and he will be here on the altar, alive and present amid us, his people. We see this in the first reading which describes the time when the tribes of Israel came to look for David and anointed him king of Israel before the Lord (cf. 2 Sam 5:1-3). In searching for an ideal king, the people were seeking God himself: a God who would be close to them, who would accompany them on their journey, who would be a brother to them.
Christ, the descendant of King David, is really the “brother” around whom God’s people come together. It is he who cares for his people, for all of us, even at the price of his life. In him we are all one, one people, united with him and sharing a single journey, a single destiny. Only in him, in him as the centre, do we receive our identity as a people.
3. Finally, Christ is the centre of the history of humanity and also the centre of the history of every individual. To him we can bring the joys and the hopes, the sorrows and troubles which are part of our lives. When Jesus is the centre, light shines even amid the darkest times of our lives; he gives us hope, as he does to the good thief in today’s Gospel.
Whereas all the others treat Jesus with disdain – “If you are the Christ, the Messiah King, save yourself by coming down from the cross!” – the thief who went astray in his life but now repents, clings to the crucified Jesus and begs him: “Remember me, when you come into your kingdom” (Lk 23:42). Jesus promises him: “Today you will be with me in paradise” (v. 43), in his kingdom. Jesus speaks only a word of forgiveness, not of condemnation; whenever anyone finds the courage to ask for this forgiveness, the Lord does not let such a petition go unheard. Today we can all think of our own history, our own journey. Each of us has his or her own history: we think of our mistakes, our sins, our good times and our bleak times. We would do well, each one of us, on this day, to think about our own personal history, to look at Jesus and to keep telling him, sincerely and quietly: “Remember me, Lord, now that you are in your kingdom! Jesus, remember me, because I want to be good, but I just don’t have the strength: I am a sinner, I am a sinner. But remember me, Jesus! You can remember me because you are at the centre, you are truly in your kingdom!” How beautiful this is! Let us all do this today, each one of us in his or her own heart, again and again. “Remember me, Lord, you who are at the centre, you who are in your kingdom”.
Jesus’ promise to the good thief gives us great hope: it tells us that God’s grace is always greater than the prayer which sought it. The Lord always grants more, he is so generous, he always gives more than what he has been asked: you ask him to remember you, and he brings you into his kingdom!
Let us ask the Lord to remember us, in the certainty that by his mercy we will be able to share his glory in paradise. Let us go forward together on this road!
As I sit here in an airport restaurant in Indianapolis on Sunday morning, the sun is just starting to rise over the tarmac. I have been here for the National Catholic Collegiate Conference (NC3) and the National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) with other members of the Catholic Apostolate Center staff. Today also marks the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe and the closing of the Year of Faith.
Over 23,000 young people from across the country, mostly high school students, have been here since Thursday attending presentations, workshops, concerts, and liturgies of various kinds. Throughout the course of these conferences (which are held simultaneously), I have had the privileged opportunity to interact with hundreds of young people who are, in one way or another, seeking to deepen their faith and grow in communio with their friends both new and old, youth and campus ministers, women and men religious, and parish priests.
What a beautiful way to end this Year of Faith, proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI and concluded by Pope Francis. The faith and witness that these young people show to the Church in the United States and to the world by their presence here at NC3 and NCYC is remarkable. Whether they realize it or not, they are heeding Pope Benedict XVI’s call from Porta fidei to live and experience “an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the one Savior of the world.”
In his homily this morning in Saint Peter’s Square, Pope Francis spoke of the journey of faith that begins at baptism. He said, “A journey which has as its ultimate end our full encounter with God, and throughout which the Holy Spirit purifies us, lifts us up and sanctifies us, so that we may enter into the happiness for which our hearts long.”
As we conclude this Year of Faith and prepare to enter into the liturgical season of Advent, it is my prayer that I might not forget the joy, enthusiasm, and witness that I have experienced this weekend here in Indianapolis. It is my hope that this Year of Faith may remain alive in our hearts as we journey toward a fuller encounter with God and a renewed spirit of conversion to Christ.
Alex R. Boucher is the Program & Operations Manager for the Catholic Apostolate Center. Follow Alex on Twitter at @AlexBoucher.
As we draw nearer to the end of the celebration of the Year of Faith I think it is important that we not lose site of the crucial call of the New Evangelization. In effort to sustain the energy, enthusiasm, and inspiration we all drew from the Year of Faith, we should not forget what it is that we’re up against. The enemy can only reach a vantage point if he is ignored and therefore permitted to advance his position and plan of attack. This is what I hear the Bishops warning against in the following excerpt in which they discuss the obstacles to the transmission of the faith.
“The principal obstacles to the transmission of the faith are the same everywhere and arise from within the Church and the Christian life, namely, a faith which is lived in a private and passive manner; a person's not feeling the need to be instructed in the faith; and a separation of faith from life. The responses also mention obstacles from outside the Christian life, especially from culture, that make it difficult and perilous to live and transmit the faith: consumerism and hedonism, cultural nihilism; and a closure on transcendence which extinguishes any need for salvation.”
The response from the Bishops is two-fold: 1) Obstacles from within and 2) Obstacles from without. I don’t know which to fear more? Perhaps, the obstacles that exist from within are more detrimental to the life and mission of the Church than the obstacles that arise from the outside. Nevertheless, we can be sure that a combination of the two can be deadly to the spiritual life. I know in my personal life there are many times in which I have chosen a “private and passive” manner of living out my faith that was certainly influenced by the culture. I don’t need to go to Mass, I don’t need to confess my sins to a priest, I don’t need to visit the sick, I don’t need to donate or give my money for the benefit of the Church or others, I don’t need to stand out on a public sidewalk with a sign that causes people to reflect on how abortion hurts everyone. And so on, and so forth. My faith, so I thought was fine the way it was: “personal and passive.”
Except that’s not the way Faith was meant to be lived. Faith, like life, is not meant to be lived in isolation! We are social beings with a need for communion! We can’t allow an individualized, “what’s in it for me” type of culture to get us to think sharing and living out our faith in communion doesn’t matter! I am fully aware of this now and my vocation to teach reminds me every day that I am not called to be a passive receiver of the Gospel but an active “re-gifter”!
Bart Zalvetta is a member of the Theology Department of Skutt Catholic High School in Omaha, Nebraska
As the Year of Faith draws to a close I can’t help but be inspired by God’s work in the life of the Church. From the outreach of Pope Francis, to the catechetical workshops in my current diocese, to the daily life stories of those in my parish, there is a momentum behind the constancy and strength of faith. St. Ireneaus writes, “A human being fully alive gives glory to God,” and how fitting it is to explore the meaning of being fully alive in the context of faith. The Church in its universal and personal faith journey aches to become more alive!
Faith is one of the three theological virtues; we are asked to believe what God has revealed to us in Himself, and to bear witness to His truth through the other two virtues of hope and love (CCC 1814-1816). By saying that we believe in God, what He has done for us in love, and to live as a witness to that understanding, we have expressed the desire to know Him. The Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner remarks, “Faith means putting up with God’s incomprehensibility for a lifetime.” Indeed, we venture into the unknown in order to know God. Growing in this way is an inexhaustible task! And we are asked to “put up” with the mystery of who God is in order to live a full life.
To live a life fully alive is a challenge in this world of amusement. We are a part of a culture that is distracted by entertainment, technology, and immediate gratification. There is a focus on having control over this busy life. Self-improvement and self-care books fill shelves. Articles and talk shows tell us that we have the power to make ourselves the best that we can be. In many ways that can be positive encouragement, but without faith in a God who governs the human heart it is an empty message.
Faith gives meaning to this life and shows us what is to come in the next. More than any other happiness or encouragement the world offers to feel fully alive, God speaks to the deepest desire of the heart. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI defines faith in his translation of Hebrews in Spe salvi, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the proof of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, Spe salvi 7). Faith gives us the best momentum to live a life that is fully alive because it is a concrete reality. We may not be able to measure out faith in a measuring cup, but the value of its effects are seen in those we meet and in our own actions. It is constant, certain, and strong and gives us a foretaste of the joy of heaven (CCC 161,163).
I have recently worked with a third grade class, middle and high school group, and my pastor’s adult formation class in framing an understanding of faith. Taking the lived experience of a parish community alongside what I study as a graduate student has led me to see how faith is being cultivated in my own life. I do feel more alive than when I pray for clarity and invite God into the relationships and situations of each day. By believing that he is at work in my life, I grasp at how to live the story of the mustard seed, teach the Creed, and consider the people and ideas in the life of the Church. From individuals to local communities and beyond the desire to know and love a God who desires us draws us to more fervent faith. “Great is his steadfast love toward us; and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever,” says Psalm 117. Let us endure and live more fully in what we believe as God does in us!
Sophie Jacobucci serves as a second-year Echo Apprentice in the Diocese of Manchester, NH.
It was a decision I had been dreading for weeks. The secretary at our local parish had been calling me for days to tell me my response was overdue. Our youth minister had lent me numerous books to aid in my decision. Even my family tried to help by offering their opinions. It was May of my sophomore year of high school and I had to choose who would be my Confirmation saint.
While I think half of my Confirmation class probably just picked a name that they liked (or wished their parents had named them) and hoped there happened to be a saint with the same name, I wanted to choose a name that had significance. I wanted to be able to envision myself having a lot in common with my chosen saint, so much so that we could sit down and strike up a conversation.
After much trial and tribulation in this selection process (or so it seemed at the time), I finally came across the story of a man whose life stood out to me. One day, in frustration over my lack of ability to pick a saint, I randomly flipped through the pages of one of the books on the lives of the saints, which my youth minister lent to me and I came across the story of St. Gregory the Great. Today he is remembered not only in his sainthood but also as one of the Church’s great leaders in the medieval papacy and as a Doctor of the Church. I was struck by the way St. Gregory the Great stood out as a humble leader during this time in history, which saw many Church leaders that didn’t hesitate to make their clerical ambitions known. During his pontificate, Gregory was credited with beginning the practice of using the title “Servant of the Servants of God,” which continues to this day. As a student leader in my school, I saw this saint as someone I could look to and attempt to emulate in my life. At the time I was a high school chorus nerd too, so it helped that Gregory was credited with reforming Gregorian chant.
Fast forward five years to the present day and it’s odd how despite my difficulty in picking a Confirmation saint, he’s not someone I think of very often. I didn’t even know that today (September 3) was his feast day until I noticed it last year and thought to mark it on my calendar. Although perhaps it was providential that as I selected the date for which I would write this blog post, September 3 was available. I saw the note on my calendar and thought this could be a way of reacquainting myself with St. Gregory the Great.
My hunch is that there are many like myself that have forgotten about a saint that once had some kind of meaningful impact on their lives. Perhaps a long lost Confirmation saint or even poor St. Anthony, who only receives attention in dire situations. As this Year of Faith draws to a close in the coming months, let us all take time to remember the holy men and women who have gone before us and devoted their lives, in faith, to Jesus Christ and his Church.
St. Gregory the Great, pray for us.
David Burkey is the Communications Coordinator at the Catholic Apostolate Center.
This summer, as I drive home, I must pass it. At the traffic light its siren call implores me to come closer. Near the parking lot its gravitational pull draws me in. Often, even several times a week, I succumb, make the right turn, get out of the car, and enter the used book store.
Today the Church celebrates my fellow book lover, Saint Dominic. Dominic lived in the early 13th century, when the Albigensian heresy was entrenched throughout Europe. After several lay preaching movements had failed to quell the heresy, and fell into error themselves, St. Dominic formed the Order of Preachers (the Dominicans), an order of priests dedicated to studying and intelligently preaching the Catholic faith. Their studies required books, and thus references to books abound in early Dominican writings: rules for the sharing and care of books, stories of the miraculous recovery of books dropped into a stream, and measures to ensure that all friars are provided with “books and other necessities of life”.
Yet, as I’ve discovered through my addiction to the used book store, books can also present temptations. I’d be content to hide behind my growing stack of books for a lifetime. Instead of being charitable, I’d read about charity. Instead of being ready to “account for the hope that is in” me, I’d lift canned arguments from Apologetics books as my hope fades, for hope cannot continue when faith in the person of Jesus Christ is replaced with the mere acceptance of a number of intellectual propositions.
“I want the Church to go out onto the streets, I want us to resist everything worldly, everything static, everything comfortable, everything to do with clericalism, everything that might make us closed in on ourselves”. This was Pope Francis’ challenge to World Youth Day pilgrims, but it is the same command that St. Dominic gave to his friars in 1217. The Pope had finally approved the order and the friars probably looked forward to long hours of study, but Dominic had other plans. Against their objections, he sent his friars throughout Europe to preach, saying, “We must sow the seed, not hoard it”.
That is the key to Dominic’s charism. His studies were not for his own pleasure, but rather, as the primitive Dominican Constitutions put it, “study ought to tend principally, ardently, and with the highest endeavor to the end that we might be useful to the souls of our neighbors”.
Saint Dominic loved books inasmuch as they helped him to love God and neighbor. In a world plagued by heresy, charity led Dominic use his books to instruct the ignorant, but when famine stuck, Dominic did not hesitate to sell his books to feed the poor, for he “could not bear to prize dead skins when living skins were starving and in need".
In this year of Faith, we must follow Dominic by deepening our knowledge of the faith. Yet, more importantly we must look to Dominic’s example of how to live it.
Matthew Rice is a Junior at the University of Maryland, College Park. He is studying Materials Science and Engineering.
Jubilee Message from His Eminence Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone on behalf of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
At the conclusion of the celebrations (of the aforesaid Religious Community) marking the 50th anniversary of the canonization of St. Vincent Pallotti, the Supreme Pontiff, Benedict XVI, happily joins (you) in thanking and praising God for the numerous spiritual benefits granted in this jubilee year and all through the nearly two centuries of faithful service by the Pallottines. During the past year every spiritual child of Pallotti has been able to draw invaluable lessons from the person and the work of the Founder and from the richness of his Charism inspired in him by the Holy Spirit and the precious teachings still relevant in the Church. St. Vincent recognized that the faith of his time was lukewarm; he committed himself to reviving it so that every believer might witness to the living God. His foundation – the Union of Catholic Apostolate – aimed at enlivening the faith and leading all to Jesus Christ. To that end the Saint also promoted several other concrete initiatives in order to enhance reverence for the ancient institution of the Church, and to animate and propagate sound doctrine. He also sought to multiply spiritual and corporal works of mercy urged on by the precept of charity, because God being love itself there is nothing more effective than works of charity to give a new impetus to the faith. Pallotti also strove to safe-guard the dignity of sacred buildings, propagate a simple explanation of the Gospel and proposed spiritual exercises for people of all walks of life. In short, he encouraged any work which, according to the time and circumstances, would prove opportune for the revival of faith.
Our own times too manifests signs of a profound crisis as is evident in the words of Pope Benedict XVI: “the true problem of our moment of history is that God continues to disappear from the life of man, and shutting out the light of God man is increasingly struck by a lack of orientation; its destructive effects are becoming increasingly evident. (Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church, 10 March 2010).
The Jubilee of the Pallottine family coincides with the Year of Faith declared by the Holy Father “to arouse in every believer the aspiration to profess the faith in fullness and with renewed conviction, with confidence and hope. It will also be a good opportunity to intensify the celebration of the faith in the liturgy, especially in the Eucharist, which is “the summit towards which the activity of the Church is directed; ... and also the source from which all its power flows.” At the same time, we make it our prayer that believers’ witness of life may grow in credibility” (Porta Fidei, 9). This is the true danger to the faith, that modern and post modern idols could assume the place of God. They enslave us with the yoke of new and subtle idolatry visible to all. In such a context the Holy Father invites every member of the Society of the Catholic Apostolate to a generous commitment to working towards rediscovering the way of the Gospel for the man of today, inspired by the message left by St. Vincent Pallotti: “to revive faith and rekindle charity, and lead all men to Christ”. The spiritual and apostolic journey of every component of the Pallottine Family springs from the contemplation of the life and sanctity of the Founder during this jubilee year. It, thus, becomes a confirmation of the words of the Encyclical Deus Caritas Est: “Faith tells us that God has given his Son for our sake and gives us the victorious certainty that it is really true: God is love! It thus transforms our impatience and our doubts into the sure hope that God holds the world in his hands and that, as the dramatic imagery of the end of the Book of Revelation points out, in spite of all darkness he ultimately triumphs in glory. Faith, which sees the love of God revealed in the pierced heart of Jesus on the Cross, gives rise to love. Love is the light—and in the end, the only light—that can always illuminate a world grown dim and give us the courage needed to keep living and working”.
Living faith and active charity are the two pillars on which Vincent Pallotti built up his luminous life and his generous works. They are the two interior forces that have stirred and sustained the manifold apostolic initiatives of Pallotti. “Charity of Christ urges us” (2 Cor. 5:14) was his motto with which he also motivated his followers. The fruit of his labor matured into the foundation of the Union of Catholic Apostolate. Right from its very beginning it greatly valued the collaboration of all of the faithful in the Church – laity, priests and consecrated – enlivening the faith of each that he/she could become an authentic apostle, a bearer of the fire of God’s love.
Sharing with the Pallottine family these reflections on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the canonization of the Holy Founder, the Successor of Peter entrusts the entire Union of Catholic Apostolate to the heavenly protection of Mary most Holy, Queen of Apostles and model of charity, and to St. Vincent Pallotti, invoking a fresh outpouring of the Divine Spirit for a fruitful ministry at the service of the New Evangelization and cordially imparts his Apostolic Blessing.
With great esteem, I remain
Most devoted in the Lord
+Tarcisio Card. Bertone
This is an English translation of the Italian original sent to Fr. Jacob Nampudakam SAC, Rector General of the Society of the Catholic Apostolate.
Tomorrow, the Catholic Apostolate Center will celebrate one year as an organization dedicated to reviving faith, rekindling charity and forming apostles. The support and encouragement that we have received has been amazing. Doors opened and the Holy Spirit moved as we collaborated with the Most Holy Trinity and with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are grateful for what has been and the many great things that God, the Infinite Love has planned for us.
A few days ago, we arrived at the threshold of the Year of Faith. The door of faith is not simply one that leads inward to our own personal revival of faith, but also leads outward into a world in need of the transforming love of Christ. The confession of faith enkindles in us the flame of charity that enlightens those we encounter with the Gospel message. We are then moved outward as Pope Benedict says:
“‘Caritas Christi urget nos’ (2 Cor 5:14): it is the love of Christ that fills our hearts and impels us to evangelize. Today as in the past, he sends us through the highways of the world to proclaim his Gospel to all the peoples of the earth (cf. Mt 28:19). Through his love, Jesus Christ attracts to himself the people of every generation: in every age he convokes the Church, entrusting her with the proclamation of the Gospel by a mandate that is ever new. Today too, there is a need for stronger ecclesial commitment to new evangelization in order to rediscover the joy of believing and the enthusiasm for communicating the faith” (Porta Fidei, no. 7).
During this Year of Faith, we invite you to revive faith and rekindle charity. Pope Benedict calls faith and charity, the “pillars of the New Evangelization” (Opening Message to the Synod of Bishop for the New Evangelization). The Catholic Apostolate Center will assist you in your formation in faith and charity as you move outward as an apostle. This blog, a sharing of faith and charity by apostles of Christ, will offer insights more frequently. Reflect on the posts that are shared and know that we are together with you!
May the charity of Christ urge you on!
Fr. Frank S. Donio, S.A.C., D. Min is Director of the Catholic Apostolate Center