At the Angelus today, Pope Francis called for “constructive dialogue and respect for international law” to resolve the conflict in the eastern Mediterranean. Though the pontiff did not mention Greece and Turkey explicitly, those countries have been clashing over gas and oil deposits in the region that both nations claim lie in their waters.
“The cross is a holy sign of God’s love… and should not be reduced to a superstitious object or an ornamental jewel”
Full text of the Pope’s catechesis
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
Today’s Gospel passage (cf. Mt 16:21-27) is linked to that of last Sunday (cf. Mt 16:13-20). After Peter, in the name also of the other disciples, has professed faith in Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God, Jesus himself begins to speak of his Passion.
Along the way to Jerusalem, he openly explains to his friends what awaits him at the end in the holy city: he foretells the mystery of his death and resurrection, of his humiliation and glory.
He says that he will have to “undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Mt 16:21). But his words are not understood, because the disciples have a still-immature faith that is too much conformed to the mentality of this world (cfr. Rm 12:2). They think of a victory that is too earthly, and that is why they do not understand the language of the cross.
Faced with the prospect that Jesus might fail and die on the cross, Peter himself rebels and says: “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you” (v. 22). He believes in Jesus – Peter is like that – he has faith, he believes in Jesus, he believes; he wants to follow him, but he does not accept that his glory will come to pass through his Passion.
For Peter and the other disciples – but also for us! – the cross is something uncomfortable, the cross is a “scandal”, while Jesus considers it a “scandal” to flee from the cross, which would be like eluding the will of the Father, the mission that He has entrusted to him for our salvation.
This is why Jesus responds to Peter: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things” (v. 23).
Ten minutes before, Jesus had praised Peter: he had promised he would be the foundation of his Church, the foundation; ten minutes later he calls him “Satan”. How can this be understood? It happens to all of us!
In moments of devotion, fervour, good will, and closeness to our neighbour, we look to Jesus and go forward; but in moments in which the cross comes, we flee.
The devil, Satan – as Jesus says to Peter – tempts us. It’s typical of the evil spirit, it’s typical of the devil to take us away from the cross, from the cross of Jesus.
Addressing everyone afterwards, Jesus adds: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (v. 24). In this way He points out the way of the true disciple, showing two attitudes.
The first is “to renounce oneself”, which does not mean a superficial change, but a conversion, an inversion of mentality and values.
The other attitude is that of taking up the cross. It is not only a matter of bearing daily tribulations with patience, but of carrying with faith and responsibility that part of tiredness, that part of suffering that the fight against evil brings.
The life of Christians is always a struggle. The Bible says that the life of the believer is a struggle: to fight against the evil spirit, to fight against evil.
Thus the commitment to “take up the cross” becomes a participation with Christ in the salvation of the world. With this in mind, let us make the cross hanging on the wall of our house, or that small one we wear around our neck, a sign of our desire to unite ourselves with Christ in serving our brothers and sisters with love, especially the smallest and most fragile.
The cross is a holy sign of God’s love, a sign of Jesus’ sacrifice, and should not be reduced to a superstitious object or an ornamental jewel.
Every time we fix our eyes on the image of Christ crucified, let us think that He, as a true Servant of the Lord, has fulfilled His mission by giving His life, shedding His blood for the remission of sins. And let us not be led astray into the temptation of the Evil One. As a consequence, if we want to be his disciples, we are called to imitate him, expending our lives without reserve for the love of God and neighbour.
May the Virgin Mary, united to her Son until Calvary, help us to not turn back in the face of the trials and sufferings that the witness of the Gospel brings to all of us.
Encouragement to participate September 1 in the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation
Full text of the Pope’s greeting
Dear brothers and sisters,
The day after tomorrow, September 1, the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation will be celebrated. From this date, until October 4, we will celebrate with our Christian brothers and sisters from various Churches and traditions the “Jubilee of the Earth”, to remember the founding, 50 years ago, of Earth Day.
I acknowledge the various initiatives promoted in different parts of the world, including the concert being held today in the cathedral of Port-Louis, the capital of Mauritius, where unfortunately an environmental disaster recently occurred.
I remain concerned about the tensions in the eastern Mediterranean area, which has been affected by several pockets of instability. I call for constructive dialogue and respect for international law to resolve the conflicts that threaten the peace of the peoples of that region.
And I greet all of you here today from Rome, Italy and from different countries. I see the flags there, and I greet the religious community of East Timor in Italy. Well done, with the flags! The pilgrims from Londrina and Formosa, in Brazil; the young people from Grantorto, diocese of Vicenza, welcome! I also see Polish flags, greetings to the Poles; Argentinean flags, also the Argentineans. Welcome all!
I wish you all a good Sunday. Please do not forget to pray for me. Enjoy your lunch and see you soon!
(Source: Vatican; translation: Novena)