Sunday, December 1, 2019

Mass with the Congolese community in Rome

At 9:50am this morning, the first Sunday of Advent, the Holy Father, Pope Francis presided over the Eucharistic Celebration for the Congolese Catholic Community in Rome.  The celebration took place at the Altar of the Chair to mark the 25th anniversary of the foundation of the Congolese Catholic chaplaincy of Rome.

Homily of the Holy Father, Pope Francis
during the Eucharistic Celebration

Pope Francis: Boboto (peace)
The Assembly: Bondeko (fraternity)
Pope Francis: Bondeko (fraternity)
The Assembly: Esengo (joy)

In the readings today, there is a verb, to come, that is repeated three times in the first reading, while the gospel concludes with the words: the Son of man will come (Mt 24:4).  Jesus is coming: Advent reminds us of this certainty already by the meaning of the word, for the word Advent means to come.  The Lord is coming: this is the root of our hope, the certainty that in the midst of the world's trials, God's consolation is coming, a consolation that is not based on words, but on presence, the presence of the One who comes among us.

The Lord is coming; today, the first day of the liturgical year, this proclamation represents our point of departure: we know that beyond any event - favourable or opposing - the Lord does not leave us alone.  He came two thousand years ago and he will come again at the end of time, but he comes today too, in my life, in your life.  Yes, our life, with all its problems, its anxieties and uncertainties, receives the Lord's visitation.  This is the source of our joy: the Lord has not grown tired, and he will never grow tired of us, he wants to come, he wants to visit us.

Today, the verb to come is not only about God, but about us as well.  Indeed, in the first reading, Isaiah predicts: Many people will come.  They will say: 'Come!  Let us go up to the mountain of the Lord (Is 2:3).  While the evil on earth comes from the fact that each person is following his or her own path without regard for others, the prophet offers a marvellous vision: all people will come to the mountain of the Lord together.  On the mountain, there was the temple of God, the house of God.  Therefore, Isaiah is sending us an invitation from God to go to him.  We are the invited guests of the Lord, and those who are invited are expected, wanted: Come, says the Lord, for in my house there is room for everyone.  Come, for in my heart, I do not carry only one people, but every person.

Dear brothers and sisters, you have come from far away.  You have left your homes, you have left your loved ones and things that were dear to you.  Arriving here, some of you found a welcome, some experienced difficulties and unforeseen realities.  But for God, you are always welcome guests.  For him, we are not strangers, but expected children.  And the Church is the house of God: so always feel that you are at home here.  We come here to walk together toward the Lord and to fulfill the words with which the prophet Isaiah concludes his prophecy today: Come ...!  Let us walk in the light of the Lord (Is 2:5).

But we can prefer shadows to the light of the Lord.  To the Lord who comes and invites us to go to him, we can reply: no, I'm not coming.  Often, it is not a matter of a direct no, an insolent word, but rather a devious no.  This is the no against which Jesus warns in the gospel, exhorting us not to do as they did in the days of Noah (Mt 24:37).  What happened in the days of Noah?  It happened that, while something new and upsetting was about to happen, no one was paying attention, because everyone was thinking only about eating and drinking (Mt 24:38).  In other words, each person was reducing life to a matter of these needs, each of them was content with a flat, horizontal life without any momentum.  There was no sense of waiting for someone, but only the the pretence of having something for oneself to eat.  The expectation of the Lord who is coming, and not the pretence of having something to consume.  This is consumerism.

Consumerism is a virus that attacks faith at the root, for it makes you believe that life depends only on what you do, and therefore you forget God who is coming to meet you, God who is beside you.  The Lord is coming, but instead you follow your own choices; your brother knocks at the door, but he is disturbing you because he is upsetting your plans - and this is an attitude of egoism and consumerism.  In the gospel, when Jesus points out the dangers to faith, he does not care about powerful enemies, hostilities and persecutions.  All these things existed, they exist and they will exist, but they cannot weaken our faith.  Rather, the true danger is that which anesthetizes the heart: depending on consumption, allowing material needs to weigh down and weaken our hearts (cf Lk 21:34).

Thus we experience things and we do not know why; we have many things but we no longer do good things; our houses fill up with things but are emptied of children.  This is today's drama: houses that are filled with things but empty of children, it is the demographic winter that we are experiencing.  We waste our time with pastimes, but we have no more time for God or for others.  And when we live for things, those things are never enough, greed grows within us and other people become obstacles to our progress, and we end up feeling threatened, always unsatisfied and nervous; hatred is gaining ground.  I want more, I want more, I want more ... We see this today where consumerism reigns supreme: what violence, and a will only to seek out an enemy at all costs!  So, while the world is filled with weapons that cause death, we do not realize that we continue to arm our hearts with rage.

Jesus wants to wake us up to all this.  He does this by using a verb: Stay awake (Mt 24:42).  Stay awake, be ready.  Stay awake, this is the job of a sentinel, who watches while remaining vigilant while everyone else is sleeping.  Stay awake, means resisting the sleep that threatens to overpower us.  In order to stay awake, we must have certain hope: that the night will not last forever, that soon, the dawn will break.  It is the same for us: God is coming and his light will illuminate even the darkest shadows.  But as for us, we must stay awake today, stay awake: overcome the temptation to believe that the meaning of life lies in the accumulation of things - this is a temptation; the meaning of life cannot be found in accumulation - we must unmask this illusion that we will be happy with lots of things; resist the blinding lights of consumerism that are shining everywhere this month and believe that prayer and charity are not a waste of time, but rather the greatest treasures.

When we open our hearts to God and to our brothers and sisters, precious things happen that mere things can never provide; things that Isaiah proclaims in the first reading: peace: They will change their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.  Nation shall not raise the sword against another; they will never again go to war (Is 2:4).  These are words that make us think also of your country.  today, we pray for peace, which is seriously threatened in the east of your country, especially in the territories of the Béni and the Minembwe, where conflicts are raging, conflicts that are also fed from outside, while many people are quiet; conflicts that are fed by those who grow richer through the sale of arms.

Today, you are observing the memory of a very beautiful woman, Blessed Marie-Clémentine Anuarite Nengapeta, who was violently killed, having said to her executioner, as Jesus also said: I forgive you, because you do not know what you are doing.  Through her intercession, let us ask, in the name of God who is Love, and with the help of the neighbouring peoples, that people may renounce arms, in view of a future where people will no longer fight with each other, but rather where they will be at peace with each other, and where people may turn away from an economy that is served by war, toward an economy that promotes peace!

Pope Francis: Those who have ears to hear,
The Assembly: Let them hear!
Pope Francis: Those who have hearts to acquiesce,
The Assembly: Let them acquiesce!
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