Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Keep watch over the Apostolic See, defend the Church from every plot that threatens the peace and help men be victorious against temptation. This was the prayer that Pope Francis entrusted to St. Joseph to whom, with St. Michael the Archangel, he entrusted Vatican City State, during a brief ceremony held in the Vatican gardens, which also saw the blessing of a statue dedicated to the Archangel.
Benedict XVI was present at the ceremony, a project of which he had approved long ago. Pope Francis and the Pope Emeritus embraced each other with affection and have remained close (pictured) throughout the ceremony.
"In the Vatican Gardens - said Francis - there are several works of art. But this, which has now been added, takes on particular importance, in its location as well as the meaning it expresses. In fact it is not just celebratory work but an invitation to reflection and prayer, that fits well into the Year of Faith. Michael - which means "Who is like God" - is the champion of the primacy of God, of His transcendence and power. Michael struggles to restore divine justice and defends the People of God from his enemies, above all by the enemy par excellence, the devil. And St. Michael wins because in him, there is He God who acts. This sculpture reminds us then that evil is overcome, the accuser is unmasked, his head crushed, because salvation was accomplished once and for all in the blood of Christ. Though the devil always tries to disfigure the face of the Archangel and that of humanity, God is stronger, it is His victory and His salvation that is offered to all men. We are not alone on the journey or in the trials of life, we are accompanied and supported by the Angels of God, who offer, so to speak, their wings to help us overcome so many dangers, in order to fly high compared to those realities that can weigh down our lives or drag us down. In consecrating Vatican City State to St. Michael the Archangel, I ask him to defend us from the evil one and banish him. "
"We - he added - also consecrate Vatican City State in St. Joseph, guardian of Jesus, the guardian of the Holy Family. May his presence make us stronger and more courageous in making space for God in our lives to always defeat evil with good. We ask Him to protect, take care of us, so that a life of grace grows stronger in each of us every day. "
Before at Mass Pope Francis had underlined how mercy is at the heart of God's message. "I desire mercy, not sacrifice." Pope Francis repeated Jesus's words to the Pharisees who criticize the Lord for sharing a meal with sinners. The taxpayers, he explained, "were sinners twice because they were attached to money and were also traitors of the country" in the sense that they collected taxes from their own people for the Romans. Jesus, then, sees Mathew, the tax collector, and looks upon him with mercy. Matthew, he says, feels Jesus's gaze upon him and "he feels stunned; he hears Jesus' invitation: 'Follow me! Follow me!' At that moment, this man is full of joy but he's also doubtful because he's also very attached to money. It just took a moment - and we see how (the artist) Caravaggio was able to capture it: that man who was looking, but also, with his hands, was taking the money. Only a moment in which Matthew says yes, leaves everything and goes with the Lord. It is the moment of mercy received and accepted: 'Yes I'm coming with you!' And it is the first moment of the meeting, a profound spiritual experience."
The second moment comes as a feast. "The Lord feasts with the sinners": God's mercy is celebrated. And following these two moments, the stunned encounter and the feast, comes the "daily work" of announcing the Gospel. "This work must be nurtured with the memory of that first encounter, of that feast. And this is not one moment: up to the end of life. Memory. Memory of what? Of those events! Of that encounter with Jesus who has changed my life! Who had mercy! Who was so good to me and who told me also: 'invite your friends who are sinners so we can have a feast!' That memory gives Matthew strength and to all of them to forge ahead. 'The Lord has changed my life! I met the Lord!' Remember always. It is like blowing on the embers of that memory, no? Blowing to keep the fire alive, always."
The biblical parables talk of those who refuse to take part in the Lord's feast. And Jesus went out to "find the poor, the sick and he feasted with them". "And Jesus, continuing this habit, feasts with the sinners and offers forgiveness to sinners. 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice. I did not come to call the righteous but the sinners.' Those who consider themselves righteous, they can cook in their own stew! He came for us sinners and this is beautiful. Let us be regarded by Jesus's mercy; let us celebrate and remember this salvation!"