Pope Francis made it clear this morning that he believes his mission as successor to St. Peter and leader of the Catholic world is far from over. The message can be read as an answer to those who hope his pontificate may end soon. He said that his mission entails being able “to dream” and to share this dream and experience of life with young people today so that they may live prophetic lives.
He spoke in a homily at Mass on June 27 as he celebrated the anniversary of his ordination as bishop in Buenos Aires 25 years ago today. He concelebrated the Mass with 41 cardinals in the Vatican’s Pauline chapel where he went and prayed at length immediately after his election as pope on March 13, 2013, before appearing on the balcony of St. Peter’s to greet the crowd in St. Peter’s Square and the world for the first time.
The pope's message can be read as an answer to those who hope his pontificate may end soon.
Taking as his text the reading of the day about God’s call to Abraham, as told in the book of Genesis, he reminded the cardinals that the patriarch was “more or less” the same age as he and them, that Abraham was “about to go on pension, to rest” when God called him.
Francis reminded them that God called Abraham as “an old man, with the weight of old age, that old age which brings pains, illnesses” and told him to “get up and go, go as if he were a young man. As if he were a scout.” God made clear to Abraham that he had “a mission” and must not stay still but keep walking and only have a tent, the pope said. He recalled that Abraham never built a house for himself, he “only built an altar. To adore the One who ordered him to get up, to walk on, with the tent.”
Francis recalled that God told Abraham to “look!” to “lift up” his eyes and “look at the horizon” and “not build walls. Always look, and go forward.” This is “the mysticism [the spirituality] of the horizon that the farther one goes on, the more distant the horizon always is,” the pope said.
Pope Francis reminded them that God called Abraham as “an old man.”
God told Abraham to “cast your gaze forward, walking, toward the horizon,” the pope emphasized, and to have hope because, in spite of his old age and sterile wife, he would have an “inheritance that could not be counted,” that would be more numerous than the stars in the sky.
The pope recalled that Abraham believed in God, got up, looked at the horizon that “has no walls,” and walked with a hope that “is without walls, it’s pure horizon.” And this justified him in God’s eyes.
Drawing on the story of Abraham, Francis reminded the cardinals at the Mass and over 150 more worldwide, as well as the five new ones that he will create on June 28, that God is calling him and them today, too, to “Get up! Look! Hope!”
Pope Francis said the Lord “tells us that this is not the hour to put a closure on our life, to not close our history, to not wrap up our history” but that “our history is still open: it is open to the end; it is open to mission.”
Pope Francis told the cardinals, “We are not gerontocratics: we are grandfathers, to whom our grandchildren look.”
The Jesuit pope noted that “someone who does not wish us well says of us that we are a gerontocracy of the church,” but he dismissed this as a cruel joke (“beffa”) and said it shows the person “does not understand what he says.”
Pope Francis told the cardinals, “We are not gerontocratics: we are grandfathers, to whom our grandchildren look”; grandfathers “that must give them a sense of [the meaning] of life with our experience,” grandfathers “not closed in the melancholy of our history but open to give this.”
He said this call of God “to get up, look, hope” is a call “to dream,” and he told them “we are grandfathers called to dream and to give our dream to the youth of today: They need it. Because they will take from our dreams the strength to prophesy and to carry this forward in their work.”
Pope Francis will turn 81 on Dec. 17. He made clear that he has received a mission from the Lord and it is far from finished.