Sunday, March 18, 2018

Angelus about a grain of wheat

At noon today (7:00am EDT), the Holy Father, Pope Francis appeared at the window of his study in the Vatican Apostolic Palace to recite the Angelus with the faithful and with pilgrims from Italy and from all corners of the world who were gathered in Saint Peter's Square.

Greetings of His Holiness, Pope Francis
prior to the recitation of the Angelus

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Today's gospel (cf Jn 12:20-33) recounts an episode that took place during the final days of Jesus' life.  The scene unfolded in Jerusalem, where He was present for the feast of the Jewish Passover.  Some Greeks had also arrived for the feasts; they were a people characterized by religious sentiments, attracted by the faith of the Jewish people and who, having heard about this great prophet, came to Philip, one of the twelve apostles, and said to him: We want to see Jesus (Jn 12:21).  John emphasizes this phrase, focusing on the verb to see, which in the vocabulary of the evangelist signifies going above appearances to welcome someone's mystery.  The verb that John uses - to see - is meant to speak to our hearts, to provide a vision, to reach the intimacy of our inner selves.

Jesus' reaction is surprising.  He does not respond with a yes or with a no, but rather he says: The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified (Jn 12:23).  These words, which seem at first  to ignore the question asked by those Greeks, in reality provide a true response, for those who wish to know Jesus must look deeper - to the cross - where his true glory is revealed.  Look to the cross.  Today's gospel invites us to turn our gaze to the crucifix, which is not an ornamental object or a clothing accessory - sometimes it is abused in this way! - but it is a religious sign to be contemplated and understood.  The image of Jesus crucified reveals the mystery of the Son's death as a supreme act of love, the source of life and of salvation for all of humanity and for all time.  In his wounds, we are healed.

I can think: How do I look to the cross?  Is it a work of art meant to be seen - how beautiful it is, or whether it is ugly?  Or do I look within myself, do I enter into Jesus wounds, including his broken heart?  Do I gaze on the mystery of God who was put to death like a slave, like a criminal?  Don't forget this: look to the crucified Christ, but look within him.  There is a beautiful devotion of praying an Our Father for every one of the five wounds: when we pray the Our Father, we seek to enter through Jesus wounds and to go within, within, all the way to his heart.  There, we learn the great wisdom of the mystery of Christ, the great wisdom of the cross.

As an explanation of the significance of his death and resurrection, Jesus uses and image.  He says: If a grain of wheat falls into the earth but does not die, it remains a single grain; but if it dies, it produces much fruit (Jn 12:24).  He wants to make it clear that the extremity of his case - the cross, his death and his resurrection - is an act of fruitfulness - his wounds have healed us - a fruitfulness that bears fruit for many.  In this way, he compares himself to a grain of wheat that rots in the earth and generates new life.  Through his incarnation, Jesus came to this earth; but that wasn't enough: He also had to die in order to rescue us from slavery to sin and to give us a new life that has been reconciled through love.  I said: to rescue us, but in order to rescue me, you, all of us, every one of us, He paid the price.  This is the mystery of Christ.  Go toward his wounds, enter, contemplate them; see Jesus, but from within.

And the image of the grain of wheat, which was used to explain the reasons for Jesus actions, must also be a part of our own discipleship: we are called to make this Easter law of losing our lives in order to receive new and eternal life our own.  What does it mean to lose my life?  In other words, what does it mean to be a grain of wheat?  It means thinking less about ourselves, about our own personal interests, and knowing how to see and to meet the needs of others, especially those who are considered least in society.  Joyfully carrying out works of charity toward those who are suffering in body and in mind is the most authentic way to live the Gospel, it is fundamental, necessary so that our communities may grow in fraternity and in mutual welcome.  I want to see Jesus, but I want to see him from within.  Enter into his wounds and contemplate the love of his heart for you, for you, for you, for me, for everyone.

May the Virgin Mary, who always kept her gaze and her heart fixed on her Son, from the manger in Bethlehem to the cross on Calvary, help us to meet him and to know him in this way, so that we can live by his light, and bear fruit to build a world of justice and peace.

After the Angelus, the Holy Father continued:

Dear brothers and sisters,

I cordially greet all of you who are here, faithful of Rome and from many other parts of the world.

I greet the pilgrims from Slovakia and those who came from Madrid; the parish groups from Sant'Agnello, Pescara, Chieti and Cheremule; the young people from the Dioceses of Brescia and from Romana-Vittoria in Milan.

I greet the Italian Folclore Union, the group of families from Rubiera and the youth who have recently been confirmed from Novi di Modena.

Yesterday I paid a visit to Pietrelcina and to San Giovanni Rotondo.  I affectionately greet and wish to thank the community from the Dioceses of Benevento and Manfredonia, the Bishops - His Excellency, Bishop Accrocca and Bishop Castoro - the consecrated men and women, the faithful and the authorities; I thank you all for your warm welcome and I carry you all in my heart, but especially the sick from the Home for the relief of suffering - the elderly and the youth.  I thank all those who prepared for this visit which I truly will never forget.  May Padre Pio bless you all.

I wish you all a good Sunday.  Please don't forget to pray for me.  Enjoy your lunch and good bye!

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