Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "Yes to life and no to death", "yes to freedom and not enslavement to the many idols of our time" in a word "yes to God, who is love, life and freedom, and never disappoints". It is the day dedicated to Evangelium Vitae in this Year of Faith, the encyclical written by Pope John Paul II in 1995. The Mass celebrated by Francis is attended by a crowd of perhaps 200 thousand people, spilling over from St Peter's Square, so that the Pope's white jeep has to travel down Via della Conciliazione so he can greet the faithful, on a sunny summer's day that prompted Francis several times to indicate to parents to cover the heads of their little ones. "You're one of us," someone shouts.
"All too often, - observes the Pope - people do not choose life, they do not accept the "Gospel of Life" but let themselves be led by ideologies and ways of thinking that block life, that do not respect life, because they are dictated by selfishness, self-interest, profit, power and pleasure, and not by love, by concern for the good of others. It is the eternal dream of wanting to build the city of man without God, without God's life and love - a new Tower of Babel. It is the idea that rejecting God, the message of Christ, the Gospel of Life, will somehow lead to freedom, to complete human fulfilment. As a result, the Living God is replaced by fleeting human idols which offer the intoxication of a flash of freedom, but in the end bring new forms of slavery and death.
And this is the meaning of a celebration that wants to "thank the Lord for the gift of life, in all its manifestations" and "proclaim the Gospel of Life." Pope Francis pointed to a person who embodied this during the Angelus: "At the conclusion of this Eucharistic celebration dedicated to the Gospel of life, I am pleased to recall that yesterday, in Carpi, Oduardo Focherini, husband and father of seven, journalist, was proclaimed Blessed. Captured and imprisoned because of hatred against his Catholic faith, he died in the concentration camp of Hersbruck in 1944 at the age of 37. He rescued many Jews from the Nazi persecution. Together with the Church in Carpi, we give thanks to God for this witness to the Gospel of Life!".
During Mass, commenting on the readings of the day, Pope Francis proposed "three simple points of meditation for our faith: first, the Bible reveals to us the Living God, the God who is life and the source of life; second, Jesus Christ bestows life and the Holy Spirit maintains us in life; and third, following God's way leads to life, whereas following idols leads to death".
This is how it was for David, the king of Israel, who in order to hide an adultery, sent a soldier to die. "But you cannot deceive God" and the king, confronted by the prophet " is forced to face his deadly deeds", repents and asks for forgiveness. " The God of mercy, who desires life, then forgives David, restores him to life". " What is the image we have of God? Perhaps he appears to us as a severe judge, as someone who curtails our freedom and the way we live our lives. But the Scriptures everywhere tell us that God is the Living One, the one who bestows life and points the way to fullness of life".
So it is when
"Jesus allows a woman who was a sinner to approach him during a meal in
the house of a Pharisee, scandalizing those present. Not only does he let the woman approach but he even forgives her sins,
saying: "Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much; but he who
is forgiven little, loves little" (Lk 7:47). Jesus is the incarnation of the
Living God, the one who brings life amid deeds of death, sin, selfishness and
self-absorption. Jesus accepts, loves, uplifts, encourages, forgives, restores
the ability to walk, gives back life. Throughout the Gospels we see how Jesus
by his words and actions brings the transforming life of God. This was the
experience of the woman who anointed the feet of the Lord with ointment: she felt
understood, loved, and she responded by a gesture of love: she let herself be
touched by God's mercy, she obtained forgiveness and she started a new life".
" This was also the experience of the Apostle Paul, as we heard in the second reading: "The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal 2:20). What is this life? It is God's own life. And who brings us this life? It is the Holy Spirit, the gift of the risen Christ. The Spirit leads us into the divine life as true children of God, as sons and daughters in the only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Are we open to the Holy Spirit? Do we let ourselves be guided by him? Christians are "spiritual". This does not mean that we are people who live "in the clouds", far removed from real life, as if it were some kind of mirage. No! The Christian is someone who thinks and acts in everyday life according to God's will, someone who allows his or her life to be guided and nourished by the Holy Spirit, to be a full life, a life worthy of true sons and daughters. And this entails realism and fruitfulness. Those who let themselves be led by the Holy Spirit are realists, they know how to survey and assess reality. They are also fruitful; their lives bring new life to birth all around them".
"Dear brothers and sisters - the Pope concludes- let us look to God as the God of Life, let us look to his law, to the Gospel message, as the way to freedom and life. The Living God sets us free! Let us say "Yes" to love and not selfishness. Let us say "Yes" to life and not death. Let us say "Yes" to freedom and not enslavement to the many idols of our time. In a word, let us say "Yes" to the God who is love, life and freedom, and who never disappoints (cf. 1 Jn 4:8; Jn 11:2; Jn 8:32). Only faith in the Living God saves us: in the God who in Jesus Christ has given us his own life, and by the gift of the Holy Spirit has enabled us to live as true sons and daughters of God. This faith brings us freedom and happiness. Let us ask Mary, Mother of Life, to help us receive and bear constant witness to the "Gospel of Life".