Thursday, March 29, 2018

Mass of the Lord's Supper in Rome

At 3:45pm this afternoon (9:45am EDT), the Holy Father, Pope Francis departed from the Casa Santa Marta and travelled to the Regina Coeli Detention Centre in Rome.

Upon his arrival, at approximately 4:00pm, the Pope met with sick prisoners in the prison infirmary.  He then presided over the celebration of the Mass of the Lord's Supper, which begins the Easter Triduum and left a gift for the prison in the form of the altar upon which he had celebrated the liturgy.

During the Mass, the Holy Father washed the feet of twelve of the prisoners who are from seven countries: four of the prisoners are Italian, two are Filipino, two are Moroccan, one is Moldavian, one is Colombian, one is Nigerian and one is from Sierra Leone.  Eight of them are Catholics, two are Muslims, one is Orthodox and one is Buddhist.

Finally, before returning to the Vatican, the Pope met with some of the prisoners in Section VIII of the detention centre.

In memory of his visit to the Regina Coeli Prison in Rome today, Pope Francis offered as a gift the altar on which he celebrated the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. The bronze work of the sculptor Fiorenzo Bacci, from Porcia (Pordenone), sculpted for the occasion of his 50th wedding anniversary, was donated to the Holy Father at the General Audience of 12 November 2016 at the Vatican.  The sculpture depicts Jesus, the Good Shepherd who goes out to seek the lost sheep.

Homily of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
during the Mass of the Lord's Supper

Jesus concludes his speech by saying: I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you (Jn 13:15).  Wash feet.  In those days, feet would be washed by slaves: that was a task for slaves.  People would walk in the streets, and those streets were not paved, there were no cobblestones; in those days there was dust in the streets and people's feet got dirty.  At the entrance to the house, slaves would wash the feet of visitors.  This was the work of slaves, but this was a service: a service performed by slaves.  And Jesus wanted to perform this service, to give an example of how we should serve one another.

Once, when they were on a journey, two of his disciples who wanted to become important asked Jesus to give them important positions, one at his right and the other at his left (cf Mk 10:35-45).  And Jesus looked at them with love - Jesus always looked at people with love - and he said to them: You do not know what you are asking (Mk 10:38).  Jesus said that leaders of nations command, and offer service, and that is good (Mk 10:42).  Let us think about that time when there were kings, a time when there were cruel emperors who were served by slaves ... But among you - Jesus said - it should not be that way: those who are leaders should serve.  Your leaders should be your servant (cf Mk 10:43).  Jesus overturned historical and cultural attitudes of the time - even today - those who lead, in order to be good leaders, should seek to serve.  Many times I think - this must not be the time because many people are still alive and have opportunities to change their lives and we cannot judge, but we can think about history - if so may kings, emperors and heads of State had understood this teaching from Jesus and instead of commanding, instead of being cruel, instead of killing people, they had sought to serve, how many wars would never have been fought!  Service: truly, there are people who do not have this attitude within them: superb people, hateful people, people who perhaps would wish us harm; but we are called to serve them even more.  There are even people who suffer, who are ignored by society, at least for a period of time, and Jesus goes there and says to them: You are important to me.  Jesus comes to serve us, and the sign that Jesus is serving us today at the Regina Coeli prison is that he has chosen twelve of you, like the twelve apostles, to have your feet washed.  Jesus takes a risk with each one of us.  Pay attention to this: Jesus' name is Jesus, not Pontius Pilate.  Jesus doesn't wash his hands, he only knows how to take risks!  Consider this beautiful image (sculpted into the altar): Jesus is kneeling among the thorns, risking the possibility of being wounded in order to rescue the lost sheep.

Today, I who am a sinner just like you, but who represent Jesus, I am an ambassador of Jesus.  Today, when I kneel in front of each one of you, think to yourselves: Jesus took risks in this man, a sinner, to come to me and to tell me that he loves me.  This is service, this is Jesus: he never abandons us: he never grows tired of forgiving us.  He loves all of us.  See how Jesus takes risks!

And with these sentiments, let us continue with the ceremony which is symbolic.  Before giving us his body and his blood, Jesus takes risks for each one of us, and he risks serving us because he loves us so much.

Before the exchange of peace, the Holy Father said:

And now, all of us - I am sure that all of us - want to be at peace with everyone else.  But in our hearts there are often conflicting emotions.  It is easy to be at peace with those who we love and with those who do good things for us; but it is not easy to be at peace with those who have wronged us, those who don't love us, with those who are our enemies.  In silence, just for a moment, let's all think about those who love us and about those who don't love us, and every one of us, let's think about those who don't love us and even those upon whom we ourselves might want to seek revenge.  Let's ask the Lord, in silence, to grant us the grace to offer everyone - good and bad - a sign of peace.

At the conclusion of the Mass, the Director of the prison and one of the prisoners offered words of gratitude for the Pope's visit.  Then the Holy Father offered the following greetings:

You spoke about a new way of seeing things: renewing your vision ... This is good, because at my age, for example, cataracts can appear, and people don't always see reality very well: next year I think they will have to do the surgery on me.  The same is true for our souls: the work of living, fatigue, mistakes, delusions obscure our way of seeing things, the way our souls perceive things.  For this reason, what you have said is true: take advantage of this opportunity to renew your vision.  And as I said in Saint Peter's Square (during yesterday's General Audience), in many places, even in my own homeland, when we hear the bells ringing to announce the Lord's resurrection, mothers and grandmothers take their children to the sink and teach them to wash their eyes so that they will be able to see with hope in the risen Christ.  Don't ever grow tired of renewing your vision, of having cataract operations on your soul, every day.  Always try to renew your vision.  This is a beautiful effort.

You all know the image of the wine bottle that is half filled: if I look at the half that is empty, life is terrible, terrible, but if I look at the half that is full, there is still some wine to drink.  There is a way of looking at life that opens us up to hope, words that you have spoken, and you too (pointing to the director); and you repeated them several times.  We cannot conceive of a home like this without hope.  Here, you need to learn and you need to find ways of sowing seeds of hope: there is no just punishment - right or just! - without being open to hope.  Any punishment that is not open to hope is not Christian, it is not human!

There are difficulties in life, some things are terrible, there is sadness - we can think about those who are dear to us, our mothers, our fathers, our wives, our husbands, our children ... such sadness is terrible.  But we should never give up: no, no.  I am here, but in order to be reintegrated into society, I need to be renewed.  This is the hope that is within each of you.  Sow seeds of hope ... always, always.  This is your task: help each other to sow hope and to prepare for reintegration into society; it will be good for all of you.  Always.  Every punishment must be open to the horizon of hope.  For this reason, capital punishment is neither human nor Christian.  Every punishment should be open to hope, to the possibility for reintegration into society, and also to provide a good example for others.

The water of resurrection, a new way of seeing, hope: these are my hopes for you.  I know that you have worked very hard to prepare for this visit, you have even painted the walls.  Thank you.  For me, this is a sign of good will and of welcome, and I am very grateful.  I am close to you, I am praying for you, and you too, pray for me, don't forget: the water that gives us new sight, and hope.

No comments: