Pope: Christianity is the encounter with Jesus, there is no Christianity ‘at a distance’

The pontiff expressed his “concern” for what is happening in eastern Ukraine with “the increase in military activity”. He hopes to see actions that promote peace and “avoid rising tensions”. He is worried about the “serious humanitarian situation” facing the population.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Christianity is the encounter with Jesus as a person, said Pope Francis in today’s Regina Caeli from the window that overlooks St Peter’s Square. At the end of his address, he thanked God saying “I miss the square when I have to pray the Angelus in the Library.”

Shortly before, the Pope said that he was following “with concern the events in some parts of eastern Ukraine where violations of the ceasefire have multiplied in recent months. I note with great concern the increase in military activities.

“Please, I very much hope that we can avoid rising tensions and that, on the contrary, acts will be taken to promote mutual trust and much-needed reconciliation and peace. The serious humanitarian situation in which that population find itself should be taken to heart. I express my closeness to them for whom I invite you to pray.”

Before the recitation of the Marian prayer Francis commented on the amazement of the disciples when they met the Risen Jesus when he joined them in the Upper Room. In response to their fright, because they believe they were seeing a ghost, Jesus invited them to look at his wounds, touch him, and feed him.

“This Gospel page is characterised by three very concrete verbs, which reflect in a certain sense our personal and community life: to look, to touch and to eat. Three actions that can give the joy of a true encounter with the living Jesus.

“‘Look at my hands and feet,’ Jesus said. Looking is not only seeing; it is more – it also involves intention, will. For this reason, it is one of the verbs of love. Mom and dad look at their baby, lovers look at each other; the good doctor looks at the patient carefully . . . Looking is a first step against indifference, against the temptation to turn one’s face away from the difficulties and sufferings of others. Look: I see or look at Jesus.”

“The second verb is to touch. By inviting his disciples to touch him, to see that he is not a ghost, Jesus indicates to them and to us that the relationship with him and with our brothers cannot remain ‘at a distance’. There is no Christianity at a distance. Love demands closeness, contact, the sharing of life. The Good Samaritan didn’t just look at the man whom he found half dead along the road: he bent down, treated his wounds, loaded him onto his mount and took him to the inn. This is also with Jesus himself: to love him means to enter into a vital, concrete communion with him.”

“And Let us come to the third verb, to eat, which expresses our humanity well in its most natural indigence, that is, our need to feed ourselves to live. Eating, when we do it together, in family or between friends, also becomes an expression of love, communion, celebration. . . How many times do the Gospels present us with Jesus who experiences this convivial dimension! Even as the Risen One, with his disciples. To the point that the Eucharistic Banquet has become the emblematic sign of the Christian community. Eating Christ’s body together, this is the centre of the Christian community.”

“Brothers and sisters, this Gospel page tells us that Jesus is not a ‘ghost’, but a living person. The amazement that only the presence of God gives. First of all, being Christian is not a doctrine nor a moral ideal, it is the living relationship with him, with the Risen Lord: We look at him, touch him, feed on him and, transformed by his Love, we look at, touch and feed others as brothers and sisters.”

After the recitation of the Regina Caeli, Francis mentioned that yesterday, “Simeon Cardon and five fellow martyrs, Cistercian monks from the Abbey of Casamari in Italy, were proclaimed blessed. In 1799, when French soldiers retreating from Naples sacked churches and monasteries, these meek disciples of Christ resisted with heroic courage, to the death, to defend the Eucharist from desecration. May their example push us to greater fidelity to God to transform society and make it fairer and more fraternal.”