Pope Francis connected last week’s reflection to his catechesis for this week, saying that, we need forgiveness, every day, in the same way that we need our “daily bread.”
“But even if we were perfect, even if we were ‘crystalline saints’” who never went astray, “we would always remain children who owe everything to the Father”, the Pope said, explaining how we are “indebted” to God.
He warned against the sin of pride, “the most dangerous attitude for every Christian life.” Some sins, he said, are blatantly obvious, but some are insidious, “lurking in the heart without us even knowing”. Pride is the worst of these, the Pope said; it is a sin “which can infect even people who live an intense religious life”. Quoting the First Letter of St John, Pope Francis said, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves”.
But, the Pope continued, although we are indebted to God because of our sins, we are debtors first of all “because in this life we have received so much” from God. Even when life is difficult, he said, “we always have to remind ourselves that life is a grace, it is the miracle that God has extracted from nothing.
Pope Francis noted that we are also indebted to God because none of us is able to love without the grace of God. The Pope described this as the mysterium lunae, the “mystery of the moon”, which does not shine with its own light, but can only reflect the light of the sun. If we love, the Pope said, it is because we were loved first. If we forgive, it is because we have been forgiven.
“None of us loves God as He has loved us”, the Pope said. “It is enough to place yourself before a crucifix to grasp the disparity: He has loved us, and He always loves us first”.
Pope Francis concluded by inviting us all to pray, “Lord, even the most holy among us do not cease to be debtors to you. O Father, have mercy on us!”
In January we celebrated the Salesian Family Spirituality Days with people from 28 nations. These are formation days for the entire Family that have been held for the last 37 years; they become more significant each time. Just as was the case last year, the Days took place in Valdocco, in Turin, i.e., in our Salesian holy places.
These are sites filled with the Holy Spirit, where everything speaks to us and reminds us of Don Bosco and the charism which he received from that same Spirit in behalf of the boys and girls, teenagers, and young adults of our world.
The topic covered is in full keeping with the call that Pope Francis launched to the entire Church in his apostolic exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate: the call to sanctity, a simple sanctity, a sanctity of daily life. This is the sanctity that so many millions and millions of people live in an anonymous way – people who will never be raised to the heights of the altar (canonized) but will, nonetheless, still live beautiful Christian lives. Who knows whether you are one of these saints of daily life, dear reader?
The fruits of the reflections shared during these days produced these “Beatitudes of the Salesian Family.” I wish to make them known to you, dear readers, because, in my opinion, they are not just sentences plucked from some book. No, they are a summary of that Salesian life to which we are all called, whether as consecrated Salesian religious, Salesian laity, or the young in our worldwide Family.
Here are the seven Beatitudes.
I can assure you, as regards all that I have experienced and have seen around the Salesian world during these five years as Rector Major – 85 nations to date – that each day God continues to make true “life miracles” for so very many boys, girls, and adolescents, especially for the poorest and those most marginalized.
These are miracles which have nothing to do with economics, but which have to do completely with how we treat the young: person-to-person, with authenticity, affection, welcoming, and listening to each young person and his or her situation – situations which very often encase truly dramatic realities.
How important it seems to me to educate the young in dialogue and in welcoming those who are different. On one of my most recent visits in Europe, a teenager prayed aloud that we might be capable of “losing fear of foreigners.” I asked myself, “What seeds are we sowing – we adults, or at least some of the civil authorities of our societies today – if a 15-year-old girl manages to be afraid of someone simply because he or she is different?”
Hope, one of the Christian virtues and a “magic” word, is very much missing today. At times, we cannot resolve others’ problems, but we can stand by their side, showing welcome and respect. We can help cure their wounds, for who is there who does not carry some wound or hurt in his or her soul and heart? Who is there who is not grateful for even a small gesture that helps alleviate the pain of life’s wounds?
Everywhere in the world where I have been, I have asked the young whom I encountered whether they had dreams, ideals, and plans for their life – for someone who does not have these runs the risk of settling for “just surviving” and not living life to the full. For this reason, one of the most beautiful things that the Salesian mission does is to accompany the young, every young person, no matter his or her situation, to take up the journey, whether it be a life plan that is small or great, simple or hefty. To accompany them is to help them anchor their lives to the pillars that aid them in standing strong against the powerful winds and the agitated seas.
If there is one word that is not in common use in our society today, it is mercy. This is why when Pope Francis speaks so much of mercy, the prophets of doom hasten to say that his words are stupid and signs of weakness. Because of this, they do not make any great or real progress in Christian life. That is not so with us, my friends. Our way of understanding life and education happens principally and primarily through an understanding, compassionate, and merciful gaze that exudes welcome and grounds itself in profound listening. We need this so much in our lives, don’t we?
This beatitude of ours is almost diametrically opposed to what society tries to “sell” us. It is much easier to “sell” belief in easy success, using tricks and lies, and the “black market” rather than to believe in and stand for what produces true good. It is much easier put on airs and to stand with someone who has “strength” or power or success than it is to stand by the truth and what is just. For this reason, we unite ourselves to people who do what is good and right – for they exist too – and who believe in authenticity, transparency, and honesty. We cannot have it both ways. We must choose: it is either one way or the other for the two cannot exist simultaneously. Furthermore, we seek to offer the young what gives them the greatest dignity, even if it is not always the easiest thing to do.
We continue to believe that Don Bosco’s charism, this gift from God for the Church and the world, is pertinent today and as necessary as ever. We believe, with all humility, that today’s world would miss something great and necessary if the Salesian charism did not exist in the thousands of presences spread across the entire world in 134 countries and among millions of young people and their families.
And we continue to believe that – even if we know for certain that a tree that falls makes more noise than the forest that grows silently. We want to be that forest (bosco) that grows silently but gives a home to so many, sheltering them in its shade.
Let us, then, be happy – let us be blessed.
Dear Confreres and friends,
He is not here… he is risen! This is the message that sustains our hope and leads us with a renewed vigour to undertake concrete gestures of charity. We need to surrender our frailty and low ourselves to be anointed by this experience! We need to let our faith be renewed and revived! We need to challenge our short sighted horizons and be renewed by this great message of all times! Christ is risen, and with him he renews our hope and creativity, so that we can rise to the problems and challenges faced by the young knowing fully well that He is with us and we are not alone.
Celebrating Easter is to believe once more that God constantly urges us to leave our comfort zones and challenges us to set aside our “conventions”, those fixed ways of thinking and acting that end up paralyzing us. When we celebrate Easter we allow Jesus to triumph over our false beliefs and inner fears that so often assails us and tries cover with the shadow of dark clouds every ray of hope.
The Glorious Risen Lord now invites each one of us once again to break out of our routines and to renew our lives, our decisions and our existence. He invites us to introspect as to where we stand, what we are doing and what we are, with the power of his assurance “I will be with you till the end of times”. Do we have the courage to share in this message of life or do we prefer simply to continue standing speechless before events as they happen with an attitude of “what can I do’?
He is not here… he is raised! And he awaits you in Galilee. He invites you to go back to the time and place of your first love and he says to you: Do not be afraid, take up your daily cross and follow me.
Pope Francis reminds us that Galilee is the place where the disciples were first called, where everything began! To return there, is to return to the place where they were originally called. Jesus had walked along the shores of the lake as the fishermen were casting their nets. He had called them, and they left everything and followed him (cf. Mt 4:18-22).
To return to Galilee means to re-read everything on the basis of the cross and its victory. To re-read everything – Jesus’ preaching, his miracles, the new community, the excitement and the defections, Yes even the betrayal – to re-read everything starting from the end, which is a new beginning, from this supreme act of Love.
For each of us, too, there is a “Galilee” at the origin of our journey with Jesus. “To go to Galilee” means something beautiful, it means rediscovering our baptism as a living fountainhead, drawing new energy from the sources of our faith and our Christian experience. To return to Galilee means above all to return to that blazing light with which God’s grace touched me personally at the start of my vocational journey. From that flame I can light a fire for today and every day, and bring heat and light to young in need to my brothers and sisters at risk. That flame ignites a humble joy, a joy which sorrow and distress cannot dismay, a good and gentle joy.
In the life of every Christian, after baptism there is also a more existential “Galilee”: the experience of a personal encounter with Jesus Christ who calls me to follow him and to share in his mission. In this sense, returning to Galilee means treasuring in my heart the living memory of that call, when Jesus passed my way, gazed at me with mercy and asked me to follow him. It means reviving the memory of that moment when his eyes met mine, the moment when he made me realize that he loved me.
As we will soon celebrate this great Feast of the Passion, Death and Resurrection, each of us can ask: What is my Galilee? Where is my Galilee? Do I remember it? Have I forgotten it? Have I gone off on roads and paths which made me forget it? Let our plea be Lord, help me: tell me what my Galilee is; for you know that I want to return there to encounter you and to let myself be embraced by your mercy.
The Gospel of Easter is very clear: we need to go back there, to see Jesus risen, and to become witnesses of his resurrection. This is not to go back in time; it is not a kind of nostalgia. It is returning to our first love, in order to receive the fire which Jesus has kindled in the world and to bring that fire to all those to whom we are sent, to the very ends of the earth… Let us be on our way!
Wish you all a meaningful celebration of Easter.