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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

General Audience with lessons from the Teacher

This morning's General Audience began at 10:00am in Saint Peter's Square, where the Holy Father, Pope Francis met with groups of pilgrims and the faithful from Italy and from every corner of the world.

In his speech, the Pope continued his catechesis on mercy, adding a meditation on the theme: Learn from me (cf Mt 11:28-30).

Following the customary summaries of his catechesis in various languages, the Holy Father addressed particular greetings to each group of the faithful in attendance.

The General Audience concluded with the chanting of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic blessing.

Catechesis of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
for the General Audience

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

During this Jubilee, we have reflected many times on the fact that Jesus shows himself with a particular tenderness, a sign of the presence and the goodness of God.  Today, we focus on a moving passage from the gospel (cf Mt 11:28-30), in which Jesus says: Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest ... Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls (Mt 11:28-29).  The Lord's invitation is surprising: he calls simple people, those who are overburdened by difficult lives to follow him, he calls those who are in such need and promises them that in Him, they will find rest and relief.  This invitation is given in the imperative form: come to me, take my yoke upon you, learn from me.  If only all the world's leaders could say these things!  We must try to understand the significance of these expressions.

The first imperative is Come to me.  Appealing to those who are weary and burdened, Jesus presents himself as the Servant of the Lord described in the book of the prophet Isaiah.  Isaiah's passage says: The Lord has given me the tongue of a disciple, so that I may speak a word to the weary (Is 50:4).  Along with those who are discouraged by life, the gospel mentions especially the poor (cf Mt 11:5) and the little ones (cf Mt 18:6) - those who cannot rely on their own means, nor on important friendships.  They can only trust in God.  These people are aware of their own humility and conditions of suffering; they know that they must depend on the mercy of the Lord, that they can rely only on him to provide any possible help.  Finally, in Jesus' invitation, we find a response to their expectations: becoming his disciples, they will receive the promise of finding rest for their souls.  A promise which, at the end of the gospel, is extended to all the nations: Go therefore - Jesus says to his apostles - and make disciples of all peoples (Mt 28:19).  Accepting the invitation to celebrate this year of grace of the Jubilee, throughout the world, pilgrims are passing through the Doors of Mercy which have been opened in Cathedrals, Shrines and many churches as well as in hospitals and prisons.  Why do we pass through these Doors of Mercy?  To find Jesus, to find friendship with Jesus, to find the restoring rest that only Jesus can give.  This journey expresses the conversion of every disciple who endeavours to follow Jesus, and conversion always involves the discovery of God's mercy.  God's mercy is infinite and inexhaustible: great is the mercy of the Lord!  Passing through the Holy Door therefore, we profess that love is present in the world and that this love is stronger than any kind of evil, in which man, humanity, the world are involved (John Paul II, Dives et misericordia, 7).

The second imperative says: Take my yoke upon you.  In the context of the Covenant, the biblical tradition uses the image of the yoke to indicate the close relationship that binds God's people and, consequently, the submission to his will that is expressed in the Law.  Unlike the the scribes and the doctors of the law, Jesus encourages his disciples to put on his yoke, in which the Law finds its fulfillment.  He wants to teach them that they will discover the will of God through his person: through Jesus, not through the law and the cold requirements that this same Jesus condemns.  We need only read chapter 23 of Matthew's gospel!  He is at the centre of their relationship with God, and at the heart of the relationships between the disciples themselves and stands as the focus of the life of each of them.  Receiving Jesus' yoke, every disciple enters into communion with him and is made a sharer in the mystery of his cross and his destiny of salvation.

The third imperative follows: Learn from me.  Jesus promises his disciples a path of knowledge and imitation.  Jesus is not a teacher who sternly imposes burdens upon others that he himself is not willing to carry: this was the accusation made of the doctors of the law.  He speaks to the humble, the small, the poor, those who are in need because he too made himself small and humble.  He understands the poor and the suffering because he too is poor and has experienced suffering.  To save humanity, Jesus did not follow an easy path; on the contrary, his journey was painful and difficult.  As the Letter to the Philippians recalls: He humbled himself and became obedient unto death, death on a cross (Phil 2:8).  The yoke that the poor and the oppressed bear is the same yoke that Jesus carried before them: this is the reason why his yoke is easy.  He carried the weight of the suffeirngs and sins of all of humanity on his shoulders.  For the disciples, therefore, to receive Jesus' yoke meant receiving his revelation and his welcome: in him, God's mercy has taken charge of human suffering, giving everyone the possibility of salvation.  But why is Jesus able to say these things?  Because he made himself everything to everyone, close to everyone, to the poor!  He was a shepherd among his people, among the poor: he worked all day long with them.  Jesus was not a prince.  It is very difficult for the Church when her pastors become princes, distanced from the people, distanced from the poor: this is not the spirit of Jesus.  Jesus would challenge such pastors, and about them, Jesus would say to the people: do what they say, but don't do what they do.

Dear brothers and sisters, even for us there are moments of tiredness and delusion.  Therefore, let us remember these words spoken by the Lord, words that give us much consolation and help us to understand whether we are using our efforts for good.  In fact, sometimes our fatigue is caused by having placed our trust in things that are not essential, because we have moved away from what really matters in life.  The Lord teaches us not to be afraid to follow him, because the hope we place in him will not be disappointed.  We are called therefore to learn from Him what it means to live in mercy and to be instruments of mercy.  Living by mercy in order to be instruments of mercy: living in mercy means feeling the need for Jesus' mercy, and when we ourselves feel that we are in need of forgiveness and consolation, we learn to be merciful to others.  Keeping our eyes fixed on the Son of God allows us to understand how far we still have to go; but at the same time, it gives us the joy of knowing that we are walking with him and that we are never alone.  Take courage then, take courage!  Let us not be deprived of the joy of being disciples of the Lord.  But Father, I am a sinner, how can this be? - Let yourself be guided by the Lord, open your heart, be aware of his gaze upon you, his mercy, and your heart will be filled with joy, the joy of forgiveness, if you draw close to him and ask for his forgiveness.  Let us not be robbed of the hope of living this life together with Him and with the strength of his consolation.  Thank you.

This catechesis was then summarized in various languages and the Holy Father offered greetings to each group of the faithful in attendance.  To English-speaking pilgrims, he said:

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, particularly those from England, Scotland, Ireland, Belgium, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Canada and the United States of America. On this feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, I pray that all may find new life in Jesus. May God bless you!

In his greetings offered to Italian-speaking pilgrims, the Holy Father said:

Finally, I offer a thought to all young people, to those who are sick and to those who are newly-weds.  Today, we celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.  Dear young people, after the period of holidays, as we begin again the usual activities, also strengthen your dialogue with God, and continue to share his light and his peace with others; dear sick persons, find comfort in the cross of the Lord Jesus, who continues his work of redemption in the life of every person; and you, dear newly-weds, make a concerted effort to maintain a constant relationship with the crucified Christ, so that your love may be more and more true, fruitful and enduring.
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