Pope Francis: It’s not us, but God who takes the first step.
Vatican City: Pope Francis said that it’s the weak and vulnerable who are most valuable in God’s eyes, and stressed that it’s always him who takes the initiative in meeting us where we are.
“God meets the men and women of every time and place in the concrete situation in which they find themselves. He also comes to encounter us,” the Pope said, adding that “it’s always he who makes the first step.”
Francis explained that it is God who “comes to visit us with his mercy, to lift us from the dust of our sins; he lends us a hand in rising from the abyss into which our pride has made us fall.”
He also invites us to welcome “the consoling truth of the Gospel” into our hearts and to walk along the path of goodness, the Pope said, noting that this isn’t done through our own initiative, but God’s, because “it’s always he who comes to look for us.”
Pope Francis directed his address to pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for his Angelus address. Among them were a group of youth from Catholic Action in Rome, an organization dedicated to promoting and defending faith and family values inspired by the teachings of the Catholic Church.
After passing through the Holy Door in St. Peter’s Square as part of their annual “Caravan of Peace,” the children prayed the Angelus with the Pope before releasing balloons as a sign of their desire for a more peaceful, less indifferent world.
In his reflections, Pope Francis focused on the day’s Gospel passage from Luke, in which Jesus, after first amazing the inhabitants of his native town of Nazareth with his insightful preaching, is thrown out of the temple and threatened with death.
Once Jesus read the passage of Scripture from the prophet Isaiah speaking of the future Messiah, he tells his listeners that “today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”
The Pope recalled that as soon as Jesus said this the people were amazed by his authority, but then begin to murmur, asking themselves “is this not the son of Joseph?”
Jesus respond by saying that “no prophet is accepted in his own native land.”
After recounting the passage, Francis said that it’s not simply the story of “a dispute among companions, as sometimes happens, caused by envy and jealousy.” Instead, the passage points to a temptation that “every religious person is exposed to” and which frequently creates distance.
This temptation consists of “considering religion as a human investment and, as a consequence, seeking to bargain with God pursuing one’s own interests,” Francis said, emphasizing that “all of us are exposed” to it.
Instead, religion means welcoming the revelation of God, “who is Father and who takes care of each one of his creatures, even the smallest and most insignificant in the eyes of man,” he said.
“This is precisely what the prophetic ministry of Jesus consists of: announcing that no human condition can constitute grounds for exclusion from the heart of the Father, and that the only privilege in the eyes of God is that of not being privileged, of being abandoned into his hands.”
Francis noted that when Jesus says “today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing,” his reference to “today” is something that applies to every person in every age.
“It also resounds for us in this square, reminding us of the relevance and the necessity of the salvation Jesus brings to humanity,” he said, adding that God is always the one to act first.
Pope Francis concluded his address by explaining that Mary was likely present in the temple on the day Jesus read the passage from Isaiah.
By seeing Jesus admired by the people, then challenged by them and finally threatened with death, she had “a small anticipation of what she would suffer beneath the Cross,” he said, noting that she kept all these things in her heart, which was “full of faith.”
He asked for her intercession in converting from adherence to “a god of miracles to the miracle of God, which is Jesus Christ,” and led pilgrims in reciting the traditional Marian prayer.