By Vatican News staff writer
As an expression of the Church’s closeness to the suffering people of Myanmar, Pope Francis joined Burmese Catholics for the celebration of Mass on Sunday. Hundreds of people have been killed and thousands injured in the three and half months of violence following a coup in February overthrew the nation’s elected civilian government.
The Mass for the Seventh Sunday of Easter took place at the Altar of the Chair in Saint Peter’s Basilica.
Recalling the Gospel reading for the celebration when Jesus prays for His friends as He prepares to take leave of His disciples and the world, the Pope said this passage teaches us how to deal with “dramatic and painful moments” in our own lives. In praying to the Father, the Lord uses the world “keep,” the Pope noted. As Myanmar experiences “violence, conflict and repression,” he said, we need to ask what are we being called to keep.
Keep the Faith
In response, he described three challenges: to keep the faith, to keep unity, and to keep the truth. Regarding the first, he said, we need faith to avoid giving in to despair that sees no way out. The Gospel reading tells us how Jesus lifts His eyes to God, despite being weighed down by anguish. Jesus does not resign Himself to evil or being overwhelmed by grief, the Pope noted, and He encouraged his disciples to have the same attitude. “To keep the faith,” the Pope continued, “is to keep our gaze lifted up to heaven” and “to refuse to yield to the logic of hatred and vengeance, but to keep our gaze fixed on the God of love, who calls us to be brothers and sisters to one another.” Prayer is the key, he said. It is not a retreat or escape from problems, but essential “for keeping love and hope alive.”
Jesus prayed to the Father that the disciples may be fully united, “one family in which love and fraternity reign”, the Pope said, and we must avoid “the disease of division.” He said we can experience this in our hearts and it can expand into our families, communitites, even in the Church, where envy, jealousy, selfishness and judgmental attitudes abound, because “division is of the devil, the great divider.” But we can all choose “to find the courage to live in friendship, love and fraternity,” he said. Each person, even “in little things,” can play a part since “commitment to peace and fraternity always comes from below.” We are called to do this as a Church to “promote dialogue and respect for others” in “communion”.
Truth at heart
The importance of keeping the truth, the Pope said, means not just defending ideas or becoming guardians of a system of doctrines and dogmas, but “remaining bound to Christ and being devoted to his Gospel.” To keep truth also means not distorting ”the Gospel to human and worldly ways of thinking, but to preserve its message in its integrity… to be a prophet in every situation in life.” Amid war and and hatred, “fidelity to the Gospel and being peacemakers calls for commitment,” including through our social and political choices. This comes with risks, but “only in this way can things change.” It also requires courage, the Pope noted, saying, “The Lord has no use for the lukewarm.”
In conclusion, the Pope prayed that “God will convert all hearts to peace.” He called on everyone to not lose hope and to know that, “even today, Jesus is interceding before the Father for all of us, praying that He keep us from the evil one and set us free from power of evil.”