Francis connects with Poles through their experience of God’s mercy

Pope Francis prays in the chapel of the "Black Madonna" at the Jasna Gora Monastery in Czestochowa, Poland, July 28. (CNS photo/Grzegorz Galazka, pool)

Pope Francis prays in the chapel of the “Black Madonna” at the Jasna Gora Monastery in Czestochowa, Poland, July 28. (CNS photo/Grzegorz Galazka, pool)

God chose to manifest his power not by amazing feats of greatness but rather through small acts of humility, choosing to enter the world as a child born of a woman, Pope Francis this morning told a congregation of at least 100,000 Polish people gathered outside the national Marian shrine of Jasna Gora in Czestochowa. (For reports, see Crux here, here, and John Allen background here.)

The Mass, celebrated on the 1,005th anniversary of Poland becoming Christian, was rich in historical symbolism. Francis sought to connect the country’s Christian heritage — a culture formed by the story of God’s humble, discreet presence in Polish history — with the Jubilee of Mercy, picking out St John Paul II and Sr Faustina as what he called “those meek and powerful heralds of mercy”.

Our minds turn to so many sons and daughters of your own people, like the martyrs made the defenseless power of the Gospel shine forth, like those ordinary yet remarkable people who bore witness to the Lord’s love amid great trials, and those meek and powerful heralds of mercy who were Saint John Paul II and Saint Faustina.  Through these “channels” of his love, the Lord has granted priceless gifts to the whole Church and to all mankind.  It is significant that this anniversary of the baptism of your people exactly coincides with the Jubilee of mercy

“Through these ‘channels’ of his love, the Lord has granted priceless gifts to the whole church and to all mankind,” the pope said.

Last night, the Pope answered questions via video from young people gathered at the St John Paul II shrine in Krakow.

Texts follow.

  1. Pope Francis homily at Jasna Gora on Thursday morning

From the readings of this Liturgy a divine thread emerges, one that passes through human history and weaves the history of salvation. The apostle Paul tells us of God’s great plan: “When the fullness of time had come, God sent his son, born of a woman” (Gal 4:4).  But history tells us that when this “fullness of time” came, when God became man, humanity was not especially well-disposed, nor was there even a period of stability and peace: there was no “Golden Age”.  The scenario of this world did not merit the coming of God; indeed, “his own received him not” (Jn 1:11). The fullness of time was thus a gift of grace: God filled our time out of the abundance of his mercy.  Out of sheer love he inaugurated the fullness of time.

It is particularly striking how the coming of God into history came about: he was “born of a woman”.  There was no triumphal entrance or striking epiphany of the Almighty.  He did not reveal himself as a brilliantly rising sun, but entered the world in the simplest of ways, as a child from his mother, with that “style” that Scripture tells us is like a rainfall upon the land (cf. Is 55:10), like the smallest of seeds which sprouts and grows (cf. Mk 4:31-32).  Thus, contrary to our expectations and perhaps even our desires, the kingdom of God, now as then, “does not come in a way that attracts attention” (Lk 17:20), but rather in littleness, in humility. Today’s Gospel takes up this divine thread delicately passing through history: from the fullness of time we come to the “third day” of Jesus’ ministry (cf. Jn  2:1) and the proclamation of the “hour” of salvation (cf. v. 4).  Time shortens, God always shows himself in littleness.  And so we come to “the first of the signs that Jesus did” (v. 11), in Cana of Galilee.

There is no amazing deed done before the crowd, or even a word to settle a heated political question like that of the subjection of the people to the power of Rome.  Instead, in a small village, a simple miracle takes place and brings joy to the wedding of a young and completely anonymous family.  At the same time, the water that became wine at the wedding banquet is a great sign, for it reveals to us the spousal face of God, a God who sits at table with us, who dreams and holds communion with us.  It tells us that the Lord does not keep his distance, but is near and real.  He is in our midst and he takes care of us, without making decisions in our place and without troubling himself with issues of power.  He prefers to let himself be contained in little things, unlike ourselves, who always want to possess something greater.  To be attracted by power, by grandeur, by appearances, is tragically human.  It is a great temptation that tries to insinuate itself everywhere.  But to give oneself to others, eliminating distances, dwelling in littleness and living the reality of one’s everyday life: this is exquisitely divine.

God saves us, then by making himself little, near and real.  First God makes himself little.  The Lord, who is “meek and humble of heart” (Mt 11:29), especially loves the little ones, to whom the kingdom of God is revealed (Mt 11:25); they are great in his eyes and he looks to them (cf. Is 66:2).  He especially loves them because they are opposed to the “pride of life” that belongs to the world (cf. 1 Jn 2:16).  The little ones speak his own language, that of the humble love that brings freedom.  So he calls the simple and receptive to be his spokespersons; he entrusts to them the revelation of his name and the secrets of his heart.  Our minds turn to so many sons and daughters of your own people, like the martyrs made the defenseless power of the Gospel shine forth, like those ordinary yet remarkable people who bore witness to the Lord’s love amid great trials, and those meek and powerful heralds of mercy who were Saint John Paul II and Saint Faustina.  Through these “channels” of his love, the Lord has granted priceless gifts to the whole Church and to all mankind.  It is significant that this anniversary of the baptism of your people exactly coincides with the Jubilee of mercy.

Then too, God is near, his kingdom is at hand (cf. Mk 1:15).  The Lord does not want to be feared like a powerful and aloof sovereign.  He does not want to remain on his throne in heaven or in history books, but loves to come down to our everyday affairs, to walk with us.  As we think of the gift of a millennium so filled with faith, we do well before all else to thank God for having walked with your people, having taken you by the hand and accompanied you in so many situations.  That is what we too, in the Church, are constantly called to do: to listen, to get involved and be neighbours, sharing in people’s joys and struggles, so that the Gospel can spread every more consistently and fruitfully: radiating goodness through the transparency of our lives.

Finally, God is real.  Today’s readings make it clear that everything about God’s way of acting is real and concrete.  Divine wisdom “is like a master worker” and “plays” (cf. Prov 8:30).  The Word becomes flesh, is born of a mother, is born under the law (cf. Gal 4:4), has friends and goes to a party.  The eternal is communicated by spending time with people and in concrete situations.  Your own history, shaped by the Gospel, the Cross and fidelity to the Church, has seen the contagious power of a genuine faith, passed down from family to family, from fathers to sons and above all from mothers and grandmothers, whom we need so much to thank.  In particular, you have been able to touch with your hand the real and provident tenderness of the Mother of all, whom I have come here as a pilgrim to venerate and whom we have acclaimed in the Psalm as the “great pride of our nation” (Jud 15:9).

It is to Mary, then that we, who have gathered here, now look.  In her, we find complete conformity to the Lord.  Throughout history, interwoven with the divine thread, is also a “Marian thread”.  If there is any human glory, any merit of our own in the fullness of time, it is she.  Mary is that space, preserved free from sin, where God chose to mirror himself.  She is the stairway God took to descend and draw near to us.  She is the clearest sign of the fullness of time.

In the life of Mary we admire that littleness that God loves, for he “looked upon the humility of his servant”, and “lifted up the lowly” (Lk 1:48, 52).  He was so pleased with her that he let his flesh be woven from hers, so that the Virgin became the Mother of God, as an ancient hymn, sung for centuries, proclaims. To you who uninterruptedly come to her, converging upon this, the spiritual capital of the country, may she continue to point the way.  May she help you to weave in your own lives the humble and simple thread of the Gospel.

At Cana, as here in Jasna Góra, Mary offers us her nearness and helps us to discover what we need to live life to the full.  Now as then, she does this with a mother’s love, by her presence and counsel, teaching us to avoid hasty decisions and grumbling in our communities.  As the Mother of a family, she wants to keep us together.  Through unity, the journey of your people has surmounted any number of harsh experiences.  May the Mother, who stood steadfast at the foot of the Cross and persevered in prayer with the disciples in awaiting the Holy Spirit, obtain for you the desire to leave behind all past wrongs and wounds, and to build fellowship with all, without ever yielding to the temptation to withdraw or to domineer.

At Cana, Our Lady showed great realism.  She is a Mother who takes people’s problems to heart and acts.  She recognizes moments of difficulty and handles them discreetly, efficiently and decisively.  She is neither imperious nor intrusive, but a Mother and a handmaid.  Let us ask for the grace to imitate her sensitivity and her creativity in serving those in need, and to know how beautiful it is to spend our lives in the service of others, without favourites or distinctions.  May Mary, Cause of our Joy, who brings peace amid the profusion of sin and the turmoil of history, obtain for us the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and enable us to be good and faithful servants.

Through her intercession, may the fullness of time come about also for us.  The transition from before to after Christ means little if it remains a date in the annals of history.  May each one of us be able to make an interior passage, a Passover of the heart, towards the divine “style” incarnated by Mary. May we do everything in littleness, and accompany others at close hand, with a simple and open heart.

Pope Francis’ video dialogue with Italian youth gathered at St. John Paul II Shrine in Krakow on Wednesday evening

Girl: After the railway accident on 12 July we are afraid of taking the train. Every day I catch the train to go to university, and that day I was not on the train purely by chance. Every day I sit in the front carriages, and there I used to meet and greet Luciano, one of the drivers who unfortunately lost his life in the accident. We felt at home in those trains, but now we are afraid. I want to ask, how can we return to normality? How can we defeat this fear and continue, to begin to be happy again on those trains which are our trains, our second home? 

Pope Francis: What happened to you is an injury; some, in the accident, received bodily injuries, and you were harmed in your heart, and this injury is fear. And when you feel this, you feel the injury of a shock. You have undergone a shock, a shock that stops you from feeling well, which hurts you. But this shock also gives you the opportunity to exceed yourself, to overcome. And as always in life, when we are injured, we are left with bruises and scars. Life is full of scars, life is full of scars, full of them. And with this, there will always be the memory of Luciano, or of others who are no longer with us as they were lost to us in the accident. And every day that you take the train you will have to feel the traces, let’s say, of that injury, of that scar, of what makes you suffer. And you are young, but life is full of this. And wisdom, learning to be a wise man, a wise woman, is precisely this: carrying forward the good and the bad things in life. There are things that cannot go on, and there are things that are beautiful. But the opposite also happens: how many young people like you are not able to go ahead in their own lives with the joy of beautiful things, and prefer to give up, to fall under the sway of drugs, or let themselves be defeated by life? In the end, the game is like this: either you win or it defeats you, life! Win in life yourself, it’s better! And do this with courage, even with suffering. And when there is joy, do it with joy, because you will lead you on and save you from an ugly illness, that of becoming neurotic. Please no – this, no!  

Girl: Dear Pope Francis, my name is Andrea, I am 15 years old and I come from Bergamo. I arrived in Italy when I was nine years old, around six years ago. The children in my class began to make fun of me, as I had just arrived, in fairly offensive terms. At the beginning I did not understand Italian well, I didn’t understand the words, and so I let it be. Then, once I began to understand, I was very upset, but I did not respond: I did not want to sink to their level. In this way I spent many years, up to the third year of middle school, when they exceeded the limit with all the offensive messages on the social networks, for which I felt practically useless and I decided to end it all, because in my mind at that moment I didn’t count any more and I felt marginalised by everyone in our village. And so I decided to end it all, and I attempted suicide. I did not succeed and I ended up in hospital. And there I understood that it was not me, that illness, that I was not the one who needed to be cured, that I didn’t deserve to stay there closed away in hospital. They were in the wrong, they were the ones who needed to be cured, not me. So I lifted myself up and decided not to end it all, because it was not worth it, because I could be strong. And indeed now I am well and I am truly strong. And on the one hand I am thankful for having treated myself in this way because in any case I am not strong, partly also thanks to them, because they put me in that situation. I have become strong because I have believed in myself, in my parents, and anyway I believed I could get through it, and I have. And I am here, and proud to be here. 

I wanted to ask you, given that I have forgiven them in part, because I do not want to hate anyone, I have forgiven them to a point, but I also still suffer somewhat. I wanted to ask you, how can I forgive these people? How can I forgive them for everything they did to me? 

Pope Francis: Thank you for your account. You speak about a problem that is very common among children and even among those people who are not children: cruelty. But you see that children too are cruel, at times, and they have a capacity to hurt you where it hurts you most: to hurt your heart, to hurt your dignity, to hurt your nationality as in your case, no? You did not understand Italian well and they made fun of you with language, with words. … Cruelty is a human attitude that is right at the basis of all wars, all of them. The cruelty that prevents people from growing, that kills the other, that also kills the good name of another person. When a person speaks badly of another, this is cruel: it is cruel because it destroys that person’s reputation. But, you know, I like to repeat an expression when I speak about this cruelty of language: gossip is terrorism, the terrorism of gossip. The cruelty of language, or of what you felt, is like launching a bomb that destroys you or destroys anyone, and the one who throws it does not harm himself. This is a form of terrorism, it is something that we have to defeat. How can we defeat this? You have chosen the right path: silence and patience, and you finished with that beautiful word, forgiveness. But forgiving is not easy, because one may say: “Yes, I forgive but I do not forget”. And you will always carry this cruelty with you, this terrorism of ugly words, of words that harm and that try to exclude you from the community. There is a word in Italian that I did not know, which I learned when I first came to Italy: “extracomunitari”, which refers to people from other countries who come to live with us. But it is precisely this cruelty that ensures that you, who are from another country, become an “extracomunitario”. They drive you away from the community, they do not welcome you. It is something we must combat. You have been brave! You have been very brave in this. But it is necessary to fight against this terrorism of language, this terrorism of gossip, of insults, of driving people away with insults or by saying things to them that hurt them in their heart.

Is it possible to forgive totally? It is a grace we must ask of the Lord. We, by ourselves, cannot: we make the effort, as you have done, but forgiveness is a grace that the Lord gives you. Forgiving your enemy, forgiving those who have hurt you and those who have done you harm. When Jesus in the Gospel tells us, “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also”, it means this: leave this wisdom of forgiveness, which is a grace, in the hands of the Lord. But we must also do our part to forgive. I thank you for your witness. And there is also another attitude that counters this terrorism of language, whether they may be gossip, or insults: it is the attitude of meekness. Stay silent, treat others well, do not respond with something else that is bad. Like Jesus: Jesus was mild of heart. And we live in a world where we are used to responding to an insult with another. We insult each other and there is a lack of meekness. Ask the grace of meekness, of meekness of heart. And there we also find the grace that opens the way to forgiveness. Thank you for your witness.

Boy: Dear Pope Francis, we are three boys and a priest, from the 350 people from Verona who departed to come here to WYD but had to interrupt their trip to Munich, last Friday, following the attack that we have all experienced first-hand, as we were there during those hours. We were told to come home, we were obliged to return home. We wanted to continue on our trip but it was not permitted. Fortunately, once we returned, we were given this possibility of returning here and we seized it with great joy and with great hope. After everything that happened, after the fear, we asked ourselves, and would like to ask you, how can we young people live and disseminate peace in this world so full of hatred?

Pope Francis: You said two words which are the key to understanding: peace and hatred. Peace builds bridges, whereas hatred is the builder of walls. You must decide, in life: either I will make bridges or I will make walls. Walls divide and hatred grows: when there is division, hatred grows. Bridges unite, and when there is a bridge hatred can go away, because I can hear the other and speak with the other. When you shake the hand of a friend, of a person, you make a human bridge. You make a bridge. Instead, when you strike someone, when you insult another person, you build a wall. Hatred always grows with walls. At times, it may happen that you want to make a bridge and you offer your hand, but the other party does not take it; these are the humiliations that we must suffer in life in order to do good. But always make bridges. And you have come here: you were stopped and sent home, then you took a risk on the bridge to try again: this is the right attitude, always. Is there a difficulty that prevents me from doing something? Go back and then go ahead, return and move on. This is what we must do: make bridges. Do not fall to the ground, do not say, “Oh, I can’t”, no: always look for a way of building bridges. You are there, with you hands, make bridges, all of you! Take each other by the hand. I want to see lots of human bridges. Like that, raise up your hands, that’s right! This is the plan for life: make bridges, human bridges. Thank you.

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