Vatican City (AsiaNews) - During the Mass Pope Francis celebrated this morning in Domus Sanctæ Marthæ, the Holy Father found inspiration in the first reading in which the Prophet Isaiah speaks of the end of Israel's tribulation after the exile in Babylon.
"The joy of the Church," the pontiff said, "is going out of itself to give life" and "look for lost sheep" because if it "turns inward, closes in on itself, it might be well organised, a perfect organisation, all right, all clean, but it lacks joy, merriment, and peace and so it becomes a discouraged, anxious, and sad Church, a Church that is more spinster than mother".
"People need consolation," he said. "The Lord's very presence is comforting". Such consolation is found even in tribulation. Yet, "as usual, we flee from consolation; we trust no one; we are more at ease in our own things, more comfortable even in our shortcomings and sins. This is our land."
Conversely, "when the Spirit and consolation come, we find ourselves in another state that we cannot control. It is precisely the abandonment in the consolation of the Lord."
"The strongest consolation is that of mercy and forgiveness." This is highlighted at the end of the sixteenth chapter of Ezekiel, when after "a list of the people's many sins," he says, "But I will not abandon you; I will give you more; this will be my revenge: consolation and forgiveness," [. . .] "this is how our God is." For this reason, "it is good to repeat: let yourself be consoled by the Lord; he is the only one who can console us," even if "we are used to taking out small consolations, somewhat of our own doing" but which are then "not needed".
From this, the pontiff turned to today's Gospel, taken from Matthew, who speaks of the parable of the lost sheep. "I wonder what the Church's consolation is. Just as when a person is comforted when he or she feels the mercy and forgiveness of the Lord, so does the Church celebrate and is happy when it goes out of itself. In the Gospel, the one shepherd who goes out to look for lost sheep could do the math as a good merchant. If he had 99 sheep and lost one that would not be a problem. Balance sheets . . . Earnings, losses . . . That's okay; we can keep going. Instead no, he has the heart of a shepherd, goes out looking for the sheep and when he finds it, he celebrates, full of joy."
"The joy of going out to look for distant brothers and sisters: this is the joy of the Church. There, the Church becomes a mother, fruitful."
"When the Church does not do this, when the Church turns inward, closes in on itself, it might be well organised, a perfect organisation, all right, all clean, but it lacks joy, merriment, and peace and so it becomes a discouraged, anxious, and sad Church, a Church that is more spinster than mother; this Church is not needed, it is a museum church."
"The joy of the Church is to give birth, the joy of the Church is to go out of itself to give life; the joy of the Church is to go out and look for the lost sheep; the joy of the Church is precisely the tenderness of the shepherd, the tenderness of the mother."
The end of the passage from Isaiah "reiterates this image: as a shepherd he lets his flock graze and with his arms he assembles them." This "is the joy of the Church: going out of itself and becoming fruitful."
The pope ended saying, "May the Lord give us the grace to work, be joyful Christians in the fruitfulness of Mother Church and preserve us from falling for the attitude of those sad, impatient, discouraged, anxious Christians who have everything perfect in the Church, but have no 'children'. May God comfort us with the consolation of a Church that is mother, and goes out of itself, and comfort us with the consolation of Jesus' tenderness and mercy in the forgiveness of our sins."