Pope Francis: Jesus' church offers truth, comfort despite efforts to discredit it

Pope Francis leads the Way of the Cross outside the Colosseum in Rome on March 30. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) 

ROME (CNS) -- Leading a prayer to God for the grace to feel ashamed and repentant for so many sins in the world, Pope Francis highlighted the hope that always comes from Jesus.

There is hope "because your church, holy and made up of sinners, continues even today, in spite of attempts to discredit it, to be a light that illuminates, encourages, comforts and witnesses your unlimited love for humanity, a model of altruism, an ark of salvation and a source of certainty and truth," the pope said.

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There is hope "because from your cross—the fruit of greed and cowardice of many doctors of the law and hypocrites—came the resurrection," which turned darkness into eternal light and shows that Jesus' love is their hope, he said.

At the end of the Stations of the Cross in Rome's Colosseum March 30, the pope read a prayer he wrote, asking Jesus to help "strip us of the arrogance" of the unrepentant criminal that was next to him at his crucifixion and to become more like the "good thief" who was filled with shame, repentance and hope when he gazed upon Jesus.

In his prayer, which he read from a hillside overlooking the crowds holding candles and a torch-lit cross, the pope listed a number of sins and the shame they cause when one gazes upon Jesus' supreme act of love.

There is shame for: having abandoned God or mocked him when things got difficult; choosing power, appearances and money over God; there being so many people, even some clergy, who let themselves be misled by ambition and vainglory; leaving younger generations "a world broken by divisions and wars, a world devoured by selfishness where the young, the least, the ill and the elderly are marginalized"; and the shame for having lost all sense of shame.

Repentance comes from recognizing one's "nothingness" and knowing with certainty that only Jesus can "save us from evil, only you can heal us from our leprosy of hatred, selfishness, pride, greed, revenge, cowardice, idolatry," he said.

Praying that Jesus always offer the grace of shame and repentance, the pope also prayed people remember the hope contained in his Gospel, which continues to inspire so many people to see that only the good can win over evil, "only forgiveness can conquer rancor and revenge, only a fraternal embrace can dissolve hostility and fear of the other."

Repentance comes from recognizing one's "nothingness" and knowing with certainty that only Jesus can "save us from evil.

Missionaries, too, bring hope, he said, because they are the ones challenging humanity's "sleeping conscience" by risking their lives to serve others, including immigrants and the exploited.

The meditations for the late-night event were written by 15 current and former students of a high school religion teacher in Rome. The pope wanted the reflections to be written by a group of young people as part of giving them a voice before the upcoming synod of bishops.

Earlier in the day, Pope Francis presided over the Good Friday Liturgy of the Lord's Passion, which began with a silent, solemn procession down the central nave of St. Peter's Basilica.

Two aides then helped the 81-year-old pope down onto his knees as he stretched himself prostrate on the floor before the main altar of the basilica. His bare head rested on a red pillow, in silent prayer, in a sign of adoration and penance. As is customary, the papal household's preacher gave the homily.

Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa said that while the church listens to young people in preparation for the synod, the church must not forget to also help them listen to Jesus and discover what he has to offer.

Repeating the pope's call for all Christians to renew their relationship with Jesus or at least be open to letting him encounter them each day, the Capuchin priest said God has a special mission for young people.

Their task, he said, is "to rescue human love from the tragic drift it had ended up—love that is no longer a gift of self but only the possession, often violent and tyrannical, of another." 

The ability to be totally giving and welcoming of love requires long preparation, whether it be for the vocation of marriage, religious life or service, he said.

Jesus on the cross is an example of giving himself for others carried to the extreme, and Christians are called to be courageous in going against the current cultural stream of selfishness and going against the crowd that chases after worldly things, he said.

There is a world out there that has nothing to do with God's plan, he said; it is a world that has come "under the dominion of Satan and sin" and plays a "decisive role in public opinion," which is then spread in infinite ways "electronically, through airwaves."

These mistaken ways are then seen as "the norm" so that when people "act, think or speak against this spirit [it] is regarded as nonsensical or even as wrong and criminal," he said.

He encouraged young people to go the opposite direction where Jesus, "our God and savior," awaits.

After the homily, the assembly venerated the cross, which was carried down the central nave and held before the pope. The pope had removed his red chasuble and, in a sign of penance, placed a red stole over his shoulders. He kissed and leaned his head against the cross.

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Tim Donovan
4 months 2 weeks ago

I must admit that sometimes I'm ashamed of my pro-life views regarding abortion and capital punishment and have remained silent instead of having had the courage to speak up in a reasonable manner. I've also abandoned God many times in past years by not attending Mass because of frustration borne of being gay. Years ago, I sinned by idolizing the human body by having sex with men. I also have been selfish towards other people in the nursing home where I live by ignoring their need for assistance. I also have been a coward at times by remaining silent when other people have spoken against Church teachings. Finally, I have selfishly abused my body by choosing to eat unhealthy foods. However, I do go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation each month with my compassionate pastor. So, I try to recognize that only Jesus can "save us from evil," who can heal me from my often self-imposed leprosy .

J Cosgrove
4 months 2 weeks ago

Jesus' church offers truth, comfort despite efforts to discredit it

The words "truth" and "discredit" each appear just once in the article. I don't know what a better headline would be but the theme communicated by the headline is not in the article.

Something reflecting hope would be better since the article is about that.

A sermon on truth and how there can be only one truth would have been appropriate in these days when belief is such an issue because there are so many competing "truths."

Christopher Lochner
4 months 2 weeks ago

I don't think the Church is being discredited as much as church leadership. There is a fundamental and compelling difference. We all know of people who talk the talk as well as those who walk the walk. Talk can be cheap, after all. The Pope exhorts the religious to act with shame! Really now, how many religious leaders act in this manner? For some, if it was a mere 2% of their being it would be quite an improvement. Sorry, but this is one of our problems, the arrogance of the leadership and their hangers-on. Point: A local and very powerful parish ( highest donation levels in the archdiocese) preaches the prosperity gospel always and often. Does the Holy Father have a clue as to the reality of religious leadership as seen from the pews? Probably not because one wonders how would he obtain the information. Sigh!

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