The pontiff makes a new appeal for peace in Syria: “On the other side of this sea, especially in north-western Syria, an immense tragedy is taking place.” He notes that the Lord asked us to engage in “the extremism of charity. It is the only kind of Christian extremism: the extremism of love.”
Bari (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis celebrated Mass in Bari today at the end of the meeting on the Mediterranean frontier of peace, an event attended by 58 bishops and patriarchs linked to cultures and nations of the Mediterranean.
During the service, the pontiff focused on “the revolution of Jesus, the greatest in history: from the enemy to hate to the enemy to love, from the cult of lament to the culture of gift. If we belong to Jesus, this is the way!”
At the end of the Mass, before the Angelus prayer, the pontiff renewed his appeal for an end to the war in north-western Syria.
Commenting on today's gospel (Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, A, Matthew 5:38-48), the pontiff dwelled on Jesus' invitation to love his enemies, rejecting obvious objections.
“We might think that Jesus’ teaching is a part of a plan; in the end, the wicked will desist. But that is not why Jesus asks us to love even those who do us harm. What, then, is the reason? It is that the Father, our Father, continues to love everyone, even when his love is not reciprocated.
“The Father ‘makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust’ (v. 45). In today’s first reading, he tells us: ‘You shall be holy; for I, the Lord your God, am holy’ (Lev 19:2). In other words: ‘Live like me, seek the things that I seek.’ And that is precisely what Jesus did. He did not point a finger at those who wrongfully condemned him and put him to a cruel death, but opened his arms to them on the cross. And he forgave those who drove the nails into his wrists (cf. Lk 23:33-34).”
“The Lord was not cautious; he did not yield to compromises. He asks of us the extremism of charity. It is the only kind of Christian extremism: the extremism of love. [. . .] But you can object: ‘I understand the grandeur of the ideal, but that is not how life really is! If I love and forgive, I will not survive in this world, where the logic of power prevails and people seem to be concerned only with themselves’. So is Jesus’ logic, his way of seeing things, the logic of losers? In the eyes of the world, it is, but in the eyes of God it is the logic of winners.”
“As Saint Paul told us in the second reading: ‘Let no one deceive himself... For the wisdom of this world is folly with God’ (1 Cor 3:18-19). God sees what we cannot see. He knows how to win. He knows that evil can only be conquered by goodness. That is how he saved us: not by the sword, but by the cross. To love and forgive is to live as a conqueror. We will lose if we defend the faith by force.
“The Lord would repeat to us the words he addressed to Peter in Gethsemane: “Put your sword into its sheath” (Jn 18:11). In the Gethsemane of today, in our indifferent and unjust world that seems to testify to the agony of hope, a Christian cannot be like those disciples who first took up the sword and later fled. No, the solution is not to draw our sword against others, or to flee from the times in which we live. The solution is the way of Jesus: active love, humble love, love “to the end” (Jn 13:1).”
“In the end, we can ask ourselves: ‘Will we be able to make it?’ If the goal were impossible, the Lord would not have asked us to strive for it. By our own effort, it is difficult to achieve; it is a grace and it needs to be implored. Ask God for the strength to love. Say to him: ‘Lord, help me to love, teach me to forgive. I cannot do it alone, I need you’. But we also have to ask for the grace to be able to see others not as hindrances and complications, but as brothers and sisters to be loved.”
Before ending the Eucharistic celebration, referring again to the meeting on the Mediterranean frontier of peace, Francis renewed his appeal on behalf of the people of Syria.
“On the other side of this sea,” he said, “especially in north-western Syria, an immense tragedy is taking place. From our pastors’ hearts rises a strong appeal to the actors involved and to the international community: Let the sound of arms fall silent and let the tears of the little ones and defenceless be heard; put aside scheming and interests and save the lives of civilians and the many innocent children who pay the consequences.”