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Advent Message 2015
Brothers and sisters,
The peace and the love of Christ be with you all!
But you, Lord, are a God of tenderness and of great mercy,
full of patience, loving and faithful(Ps. 86,15).
The first Sunday of Advent marks the beginning of a new liturgical year, but also a season of grace, a time of hope and joy as we prepare for the coming of Jesus, our Savior. We begin this message with the words of Psalm 86 inviting us to contemplate the mercy and tenderness of God, his patience, kindness and faithfulness. How can we experience all these in our lives?
Pope Francis helps us in this matter with his noble initiative of celebrating a Jubilee Year of Mercy. He tells us: "Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy”. Mercy has become living and visible in Jesus of Nazareth, reaching its culmination in him. We need constantly to contemplate the mystery of mercy. It is a well-spring of joy, serenity and peace. Our salvation depends on it. Mercy is the word that reveals the mystery of the Holy Trinity.
Mercy is the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us.
Mercy is the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters. Mercy: the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite of our sinfulness." (Pope Francis’, Misericordiae Vultus).
The Pope’s message is a warm and urgent invitation to open our minds and hearts to God the Father’s Mercy. It urges us to celebrate this special Jubilee with concrete signs, whether in liturgical celebrations, or in teaching taken from the Word of God, the doctrine of the church and accompanied by the practice of corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
The coming of Jesus into the world opened a way of hope and consolation for the people. He came to show love and not to condemn. His life was a testimony of a mercy without limit, discrimination, and self-interest.
The call of Jesus is a plea for us not to be indifferent. We too can experience his tenderness and receive the strength that transforms us by His grace. None of us should be excluded and remain without the experience of God's mercy. We all know the way (John 14, 6) and what we only need are strength and determination. So we can practice it, we must accept the grace of God to guide, move and encourage us. A very important point in this matter is that our Church, our parishes invite us to experience God’s love. Our doors are wide open!
To show this in a visible and clear way, Pope Francis at the beginning of the Year of Mercy will open the Holy Door in Rome, on the Feast of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, on December 8, 2015.
It will be called the Door of Mercy through which all who enter will experience God's love that comforts, forgives and gives new hope. "Mercy is always greater than sin and no one can limit the love of God that is always ready to forgive" are the words of Pope Francis as regards this year of Mercy.
Following his invitation, there will be on each island in our Diocese, the formal opening of the "Door of Mercy", starting on Tuesday, December 8, 2015, the Feast of Mary’s Immaculate Conception in the Church of St. Martin of Tours, St. Maarten for the three islands: Saba, St. Eustatius and St Maarten; on Friday, December 11, at the Church of St. Bernard in Bonaire; on Saturday December 12, at the Basilica of Saint Anne in Curaçao and on Sunday, December 13, in the Pro-Cathedral Church of San Francis of Assisi in Aruba. These churches will be the designated places for the pilgrims who are going through the Door of Mercy as to be able to fulfill the conditions of the Church to gain the indulgences of this Jubilee Year. Furthermore, this is also to awaken in each of us and our people in general the desire for conversion and spiritual renewal.
Finally, I invite you all to enter into the new liturgical year starting this Advent season with our gaze on God through His Son, Jesus Christ who comes to show the merciful face of the Father who offers the world his unconditional love. This will be a great gift of faith for Christmas!
May Mother Mary, Mother of Mercy help and guide us through her intercession before God the Father.
Your servant in Jesus and Mary.
Most Reverend Luis A. Secco, sdb
Bishop of Willemstad
Vatican City, April 05, 2015 (Zenit.org)
Here is the translation of the Holy Father's Urbi et Orbi Message given in St. Peter's Square today.
* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Happy Easter!
Jesus Christ is risen!
Love has triumphed over hatred, life has conquered death, light has dispelled the darkness!
Out of love for us, Jesus Christ stripped himself of his divine glory, emptied himself, took on the form of a slave and humbled himself even to death, death on a cross. For this reason God exalted him and made him Lord of the universe. Jesus is Lord!
By his death and resurrection, Jesus shows everyone the way to life and happiness: this way is humility, which involves humiliation. This is the path which leads to glory. Only those who humble themselves can go towards the “things that are above”, towards God(cf. Col 3:1-4). The proud look “down from above”; the humble look “up from below”.
On Easter morning, alerted by the women, Peter and John ran to the tomb. They found it open and empty. Then they drew near and “bent down” in order to enter it. To enter into the mystery, we need to “bend down”, to abase ourselves. Only those who abase themselves understand the glorification of Jesus and are able to follow him on his way.
The world proposes that we put ourselves forward at all costs, that we compete, that we prevail… But Christians, by the grace of Christ, dead and risen, are the seeds of another humanity, in which we seek to live in service to one another, not to be arrogant, but rather respectful and ready to help.
This is not weakness, but true strength! Those who bear within them God’s power, his love and his justice, do not need to employ violence; they speak and act with the power of truth, beauty and love.
From the risen Lord we ask the grace not to succumb to the pride which fuels violence and war, but to have the humble courage of pardon and peace. We ask Jesus, the Victor over death, to lighten the sufferings of our many brothers and sisters who are persecuted for his name, and of all those who suffer injustice as a result of ongoing conflicts and violence. There are many!
We ask for peace, above all, for Syria and Iraq, that the roar of arms may cease and that peaceful coexistence may be restored among the various groups which make up those beloved countries. May the international community not stand by before the immense humanitarian tragedy unfolding in these countries and the tragedy of the numerous refugees.
We pray for peace for all the peoples of the Holy Land. May the culture of encounter grow between Israelis and Palestinians and the peace process be resumed, in order to end years of suffering and division.
We implore peace for Libya, that the present absurd bloodshed and all barbarous acts of violence may cease, and that all concerned for the future of the country may work to favour reconciliation and to build a fraternal society respectful of the dignity of the person. For Yemen too we express our hope for the growth of a common desire for peace, for the good of the entire people.
At the same time, in hope we entrust to the merciful Lord the framework recently agreed to in Lausanne, that it may be a definitive step toward a more secure and fraternal world.
We ask the risen Lord for the gift of peace for Nigeria, South Sudan and for the various areas of Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. May constant prayer rise up from all people of goodwill for those who lost their lives – I think in particular of the young people who were killed last Thursday at Garissa University College in Kenya –, for all who have been kidnapped, and for those forced to abandon their homes and their dear ones.
May the Lord’s resurrection bring light to beloved Ukraine, especially to those who have endured the violence of the conflict of recent months. May the country rediscover peace and hope thanks to the commitment of all interested parties.
We ask for peace and freedom for the many men and women subject to old and new forms of enslavement on the part of criminal individuals and groups. Peace and liberty for the victims of drug dealers, who are often allied with the powers who ought to defend peace and harmony in the human family. And we ask peace for this world subjected to arms dealers, who earn with the blood of men and women.
May the marginalized, the imprisoned, the poor and the migrants who are so often rejected, maltreated and discarded, the sick and the suffering, children, especially those who are victims of violence; all who today are in mourning, and all men and women of goodwill, hear the consoling voice of the Lord Jesus: “Peace to you!” (Lk 24:36). “Fear not, for I am risen and I shall always be with you” (cf. Roman Missal, Entrance Antiphon for Easter Day);
[Translation by Holy See]
Follwing his blessing, the Pope said these words:
Dear brothers and sisters,
I would like to give my wishes for a Happy Easter to all of you who have come to this square from various countries as well as those who have connected through means of social communications. Bring to those in your homes and whom you meet the joyful announcement that the Lord has risen, that He is the Lord of Life, bringing with Himself love, respect and forgiveness.
Thank you for your presence, for your prayers, and for the enthusiasm of your faith on a day that while very beautiful, but also very ugly because of the rain. A special and recognizing thought goes for the donation of flowers, that this year comes from the Netherlands.
I wish you all a Happy Easter, pray for me, and have a good lunch.
[Translation by Junno Arocho Esteves]
(April 05, 2015) © Innovative Media Inc.
Pontifical Council for Social Communications
Communicating the Family: A Privileged Place of Encounter with the Gift of Love
Message of His Holiness Pope Francis
The family is a subject of profound reflection by the Church and of a process involving two Synods: the recent extraordinary assembly and the ordinary assembly scheduled for next October. So I thought it appropriate that the theme for the next World Communications Day should have the family as its point of reference. After all, it is in the context of the family that we first learn how to communicate. Focusing on this context can help to make our communication more authentic and humane, while helping us to view the family in a new perspective.
We can draw inspiration from the Gospel passage which relates the visit of Mary to Elizabeth (Lk 1:39-56). “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit cried out in a loud voice and said, ‘Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb’.” (vv. 41-42)
This episode first shows us how communication is a dialogue intertwined with the language of the body. The first response to Mary’s greeting is given by the child, who leaps for joy in the womb of Elizabeth. Joy at meeting others, which is something we learn even before being born, is, in one sense, the archetype and symbol of every other form of communication. The womb which hosts us is the first “school” of communication, a place of listening and physical contact where we begin to familiarize ourselves with the outside world within a protected environment, with the reassuring sound of the mother’s heartbeat. This encounter between two persons, so intimately related while still distinct from each other, an encounter so full of promise, is our first experience of communication. It is an experience which we all share, since each of us was born of a mother.
Even after we have come into the world, in some sense we are still in a “womb”, which is the family. A womb made up of various interrelated persons: the family is “where we learn to live with others despite our differences” (Evangelii Gaudium, 66). Notwithstanding the differences of gender and age between them, family members accept one another because there is a bond between them. The wider the range of these relationships and the greater the differences of age, the richer will be our living environment. It is this bond which is at the root of language, which in turn strengthens the bond. We do not create our language; we can use it because we have received it. It is in the family that we learn to speak our “mother tongue”, the language of those who have gone before us. (cf. 2 Macc 7:25,27). In the family we realize that others have preceded us, they made it possible for us to exist and in our turn to generate life and to do something good and beautiful. We can give because we have received. This virtuous circle is at the heart of the family’s ability to communicate among its members and with others. More generally, it is the model for all communication.
The experience of this relationship which “precedes” us enables the family to become the setting in which the most basic form of communication, which is prayer, is handed down. When parents put their newborn children to sleep, they frequently entrust them to God, asking that he watch over them. When the children are a little older, parents help them to recite some simple prayers, thinking with affection of other people, such as grandparents, relatives, the sick and suffering, and all those in need of God’s help. It was in our families that the majority of us learned the religious dimension ofcommunication, which in the case of Christianity is permeated with love, the love that God bestows upon us and which we then offer to others.
In the family, we learn to embrace and support one another, to discern the meaning of facial expressions and moments of silence, to laugh and cry together with people who did not choose one other yet are so important to each other. This greatly helps us to understand the meaning of communication as recognizing and creating closeness. When we lessen distances by growing closer and accepting one another, we experience gratitude and joy. Mary’s greeting and the stirring of her child are a blessing for Elizabeth; they are followed by the beautiful canticle of the Magnificat, in which Mary praises God’s loving plan for her and for her people. A “yes” spoken with faith can have effects that go well beyond ourselves and our place in the world. To “visit” is to open doors, not remaining closed in our little world, but rather going out to others. So too the family comes alive as it reaches beyond itself; families who do so communicate their message of life and communion, giving comfort and hope to more fragile families, and thus build up the Church herself, which is the family of families.
More than anywhere else, the family is where we daily experience our own limits and those of others, the problems great and small entailed in living peacefully with others. A perfect family does not exist. We should not be fearful of imperfections, weakness or even conflict, but rather learn how to deal with them constructively. The family, where we keep loving one another despite our limits and sins, thus becomes a school of forgiveness. Forgiveness is itself a process of communication. When contrition is expressed and accepted, it becomes possible to restore and rebuild the communication which broke down. A child who has learned in the family to listen to others, to speak respectfully and to express his or her view without negating that of others, will be a force for dialogue and reconciliation in society.
When it comes to the challenges of communication, families who have children with one or more disabilities have much to teach us. A motor, sensory or mental limitation can be a reason for closing in on ourselves, but it can also become, thanks to the love of parents, siblings, and friends, an incentive to openness, sharing and ready communication with all. It can also help schools, parishes and associations to become more welcoming and inclusive of everyone.
In a world where people often curse, use foul language, speak badly of others, sow discord and poison our human environment by gossip, the family can teach us to understand communication as a blessing. In situations apparently dominated by hatred and violence, where families are separated by stone walls or the no less impenetrable walls of prejudice and resentment, where there seem to be good reasons for saying “enough is enough”, it is only by blessing rather than cursing, by visiting rather than repelling, and by accepting rather than fighting, that we can break the spiral of evil, show that goodness is always possible, and educate our children to fellowship.
Today the modern media, which are an essential part of life for young people in particular, can be both a help and a hindrance to communication in and between families. The media can be a hindrance if they become a way to avoid listening to others, to evade physical contact, to fill up every moment of silence and rest, so that we forget that “silence is an integral element of communication; in its absence, words rich in content cannot exist.” (BENEDICT XVI, Message for the 2012 World Communications Day). The media can help communication when they enable people to share their stories, to stay in contact with distant friends, to thank others or to seek their forgiveness, and to open the door to new encounters. By growing daily in our awareness of the vital importance of encountering others, these “new possibilities”, we will employ technology wisely, rather than letting ourselves be dominated by it. Here too, parents are the primary educators, but they cannot be left to their own devices. The Christian community is called to help them in teaching children how to live in a media environment in a way consonant with the dignity of the human person and service of the common good.
The great challenge facing us today is to learn once again how to talk to one another, not simply how to generate and consume information. The latter is a tendency which our important and influential modern communications media can encourage. Information is important, but it is not enough. All too often things get simplified, different positions and viewpoints are pitted against one another, and people are invited to take sides, rather than to see things as a whole.
The family, in conclusion, is not a subject of debate or a terrain for ideological skirmishes. Rather, it is an environment in which we learn to communicate in an experience of closeness, a setting where communication takes place, a “communicating community”. The family is a community which provides help, which celebrates life and is fruitful. Once we realize this, we will once more be able to see how the family continues to be a rich human resource, as opposed to a problem or an institution in crisis. At times the media can tend to present the family as a kind of abstract model which has to be accepted or rejected, defended or attacked, rather than as a living reality. Or else a grounds for ideological clashes rather than as a setting where we can all learn what it means to communicate in a love received and returned. Relating our experiences means realizing that our lives are bound together as a single reality, that our voices are many, and that each is unique.
Families should be seen as a resource rather than as a problem for society. Families at their best actively communicate by their witness the beauty and the richness of the relationship between man and woman, and between parents and children. We are not fighting to defend the past. Rather, with patience and trust, we are working to build a better future for the world in which we live.
From the Vatican, 23 January 2015, Vigil of the the Memorial of Saint Francis de Sales.
OF THE TWENTY-THIRD WORLD DAY OF THE SICK
(11 FEBRUARY 2015)
“I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame”
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On this, the twenty-third World Day of the Sick, begun by Saint John Paul II, I turn to all of you who are burdened by illness and are united in various ways to the flesh of the suffering Christ, as well as to you, professionals and volunteers in the field of health care.
This year’s theme invites us to reflect on a phrase from the Book of Job: “I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame” (Job 29:15). I would like to consider this phrase from the perspective of “sapientia cordis” – the wisdom of the heart.
1. This “wisdom” is no theoretical, abstract knowledge, the product of reasoning. Rather, it is, as Saint James describes it in his Letter, “pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity” (3:17). It is a way of seeing things infused by the Holy Spirit in the minds and the hearts of those who are sensitive to the sufferings of their brothers and sisters and who can see in them the image of God. So let us take up the prayer of the Psalmist: “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Ps 90:12). This “sapientia cordis”, which is a gift of God, is a compendium of the fruits of the World Day of the Sick.
2. Wisdom of the heart means serving our brothers and sisters. Job’s words: “I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame”, point to the service which this just man, who enjoyed a certain authority and a position of importance amongst the elders of his city, offered to those in need. His moral grandeur found expression in the help he gave to the poor who sought his help and in his care for orphans and widows (Job 29:12-13).
Today too, how many Christians show, not by their words but by lives rooted in a genuine faith, that they are “eyes to the blind” and “feet to the lame”! They are close to the sick in need of constant care and help in washing, dressing and eating. This service, especially when it is protracted, can become tiring and burdensome. It is relatively easy to help someone for a few days but it is difficult to look after a person for months or even years, in some cases when he or she is no longer capable of expressing gratitude. And yet, what a great path of sanctification this is! In those difficult moments we can rely in a special way on the closeness of the Lord, and we become a special means of support for the Church’s mission.
3. Wisdom of the heart means being with our brothers and sisters. Time spent with the sick is holy time. It is a way of praising God who conforms us to the image of his Son, who “came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mt 20:28). Jesus himself said: “I am among you as one who serves” (Lk 22:27).
With lively faith let us ask the Holy Spirit to grant us the grace to appreciate the value of our often unspoken willingness to spend time with these sisters and brothers who, thanks to our closeness and affection, feel more loved and comforted. How great a lie, on the other hand, lurks behind certain phrases which so insist on the importance of “quality of life” that they make people think that lives affected by grave illness are not worth living!
4. Wisdom of the heart means going forth from ourselves towards our brothers and sisters. Occasionally our world forgets the special value of time spent at the bedside of the sick, since we are in such a rush; caught up as we are in a frenzy of doing, of producing, we forget about giving ourselves freely, taking care of others, being responsible for others. Behind this attitude there is often a lukewarm faith which has forgotten the Lord’s words: “You did it unto me’ (Mt 25:40).
For this reason, I would like once again to stress “the absolute priority of ‘going forth from ourselves toward our brothers and sisters’ as one of the two great commandments which ground every moral norm and as the clearest sign for discerning spiritual growth in response to God’s completely free gift” (Evangelii Gaudium, 179). The missionary nature of the Church is the wellspring of an “effective charity and a compassion which understands, assists and promotes” (ibid).
5. Wisdom of the heart means showing solidarity with our brothers and sisters while not judging them. Charity takes time. Time to care for the sick and time to visit them. Time to be at their side like Job’s friends: “And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great” (Job 2:13). Yet Job’s friends harboured a judgement against him: they thought that Job’s misfortune was a punishment from God for his sins. True charity is a sharing which does not judge, which does not demand the conversion of others; it is free of that false humility which, deep down, seeks praise and is self-satisfied about whatever good it does.
Job’s experience of suffering finds its genuine response only in the cross of Jesus, the supreme act of God’s solidarity with us, completely free and abounding in mercy. This response of love to the drama of human pain, especially innocent suffering, remains for ever impressed on the body of the risen Christ; his glorious wounds are a scandal for faith but also the proof of faith (cf. Homily for the Canonization of John XXIII and John Paul II, 27 April 2014).
Even when illness, loneliness and inability make it hard for us to reach out to others, the experience of suffering can become a privileged means of transmitting grace and a source for gaining and growing in sapientia cordis. We come to understand how Job, at the end of his experience, could say to God: “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you” (42:5). People immersed in the mystery of suffering and pain, when they accept these in faith, can themselves become living witnesses of a faith capable of embracing suffering, even without being able to understand its full meaning.
6. I entrust this World Day of the Sick to the maternal protection of Mary, who conceived and gave birth to Wisdom incarnate: Jesus Christ, our Lord.
O Mary, Seat of Wisdom, intercede as our Mother for all the sick and for those who care for them! Grant that, through our service of our suffering neighbours, and through the experience of suffering itself, we may receive and cultivate true wisdom of heart!
With this prayer for all of you, I impart my Apostolic Blessing.
From the Vatican, 3 December 2014,
Memorial of Saint Francis Xavier