As every evening at 6pm, I have offered the sacrifice of Mass for our parish and for all who worship at S Giles in the improvised chapel in my study.
Tonight was particularly moving as shortly before the Mass, I joined millions of Christians around the world who prayed with Pope Francis who imparted his extraordinary Apostolic Blessing Urbi et Orbi from the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica.
The Holy Father prayed for the world at this critical juncture in the presence of the ancient icon of Mary Salus Populi Romani– usually housed in the Basilica of St. Mary Major – and the miraculous crucifix kept in the church of San Marcello on the city’s Via del Corso. The Pope then exposed the Blessed Sacrament for adoration and imparted his blessing.
“For weeks now it has been evening,” said the Pope. “Thick darkness has gathered over our squares, our streets and our cities; it has taken over our lives, filling everything with a deafening silence and a distressing void, that stops everything as it passes by; we feel it in the air, we notice it in people’s gestures, their glances give them away.” In this situation, he said, we feel afraid and lost, like the disciples whose boat was in danger of sinking while Jesus slept at the stern.
Now is not the time of God’s judgment, but of our own: “a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not.”
The Pope said we can draw lessons from the many people who – even though fearful – have reacted by giving their lives, including medical personnel, supermarket clerks, cleaners, priests, police officers, and volunteers. This, he said, “is the force of the Spirit poured out and fashioned in courageous and generous self-denial.”
Pope Francis said faith begins “when we realize we are in need of salvation” and are not self-sufficient. If we turn to Jesus and hand Him our fears, said the Pope, He will conquer them.
“Because this is God’s strength: turning to the good everything that happens to us, even the bad things. He brings serenity into our storms, because with God life never dies.”
Jesus’ cross, said Pope Francis, is the anchor that has saved us, the rudder that has redeemed us, and our hope, because “by His cross we have been healed and embraced so that nothing and no one can separate us from His redeeming love.”
“In the midst of isolation when we are suffering from a lack of tenderness and chances to meet up, and we experience the loss of so many things,” he said, “let us once again listen to the proclamation that saves us: He is risen and is living by our side.”
“Embracing the Lord in order to embrace hope: that is the strength of faith, which frees us from fear and gives us hope.”
Concluding his meditation, Pope Francis entrusted us all to the Lord, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, so that our faith might not waiver in this time of crisis.
“Dear brothers and sisters, from this place that tells of Peter’s rock-solid faith, I would like this evening to entrust all of you to the Lord, through the intercession of Mary, Health of the People and Star of the stormy Sea. From this colonnade that embraces Rome and the whole world, may God’s blessing come down upon you as a consoling embrace. Lord, may you bless the world, give health to our bodies and comfort our hearts. You ask us not to be afraid. Yet our faith is weak and we are fearful. But you, Lord, will not leave us at the mercy of the storm. Tell us again: ‘Do not be afraid’ (Mt 28:5). And we, together with Peter, ‘cast all our anxieties onto you, for you care about us’ (cf. 1Pet 5:7).”
By Fr Tomas