‘The Lord never lost direct contact with his people,’ Pope Francis underscored during the Chrism Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica this Holy Thursday morning.
Encouraging his brother priests to join him in being near the people, and reject temptations toward clericalism and creating distances, he said to follow the Lord’s example. Jesus, amid the crowds, Francis reminded, always kept the grace of closeness with the people as a whole, and with each individual.
“We see this throughout his public life,” Francis observed, adding: “and so it was from the beginning:the radiance of the Child gently attracted shepherds, kings and elderly dreamers like Simeon and Anna. So it was on the cross: his Heart draws all people to himself: Veronicas, Cyreneans, thieves, centurions…”
The Pope reminded that the people all had their eyes fixed on Christ.
“The Church,” he underscored, “always has her eyes fixed on Jesus Christ, the Anointed One, whom the Spirit sends to anoint God’s people,” recalling that the Gospels frequently present us with this image of the Lord in the midst of a crowd.
Their “following,” is something completely unexpected, unconditional and full of affection, he said, underscoring it “contrasts with the small-mindedness of the disciples, whose attitude towards people verges on cruelty when they suggest to the Lord that he send them away, so that they can get something to eat.”
“Here, I believe,” Francis continued, “was the beginning of clericalism: in this desire to be assured of a meal and personal comfort without any concern for the people. The Lord cut short that temptation: “You, give them something to eat!” was Jesus’ response. “Take care of the people!”
The second grace, Francis said, is that of ‘amazement.’
“People were amazed by Jesus, by His miracles, but above all by His very person,” the Pope said. “People loved to meet him along the way, to receive his blessing and to bless him, like the woman in the midst of the crowd who blessed His Mother.”
“The Lord himself,” he pointed out, “was amazed by people’s faith; He rejoiced and he lost no opportunity to speak about it.”
The third grace, Francis said, is that of ‘discernment.’
The Jesuit Pope recalled how in St. Matthew’s Gospel, it noted how the people “were astounded by his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority.”
“Christ, the Word of God come in the flesh,” Francis said, “awakens in people this charism of discernment, which is certainly not the discernment of those who specialize in disputed questions.”
“When the Pharisees and the teachers of the law debated with him,” the Pope continued, “what people discerned was Jesus’ authority, the power of his teaching to touch their hearts, and the fact that evil spirits obeyed him (leaving momentarily speechless those who tried to trap him by their questions; the people liked that).”
The Pontiff called on those present to take a closer look at the way the Gospel views the crowd, and remember how St. Luke points out four groups “who are the preferred beneficiaries of the Lord’s anointing”: the poor, the blind, the oppressed and captives.
While the Evangelist speaks of them in general terms, Francis expressed appreciation that over the course of the Lord’s life, “these anointed ones gradually take on real names and faces.”
“We priests,” the Pope said, “are the poor man and we would like to have the heart of the poor widow whenever we give alms, touching the hand of the beggar and looking him or her in the eye. We priests are Bartimaeus, and each morning we get up and pray: ‘Lord, that I may see.’”
“We priests are, in some point of our sinfulness,” he also said, “the man beaten by the robbers. And we want first to be in the compassionate hands of the good Samaritan, in order then to be able to show compassion to others with our own hands.”
The Holy Father then went on to make a confession.
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