As pope makes "heartfelt appeal" for peace in the Holy Land, he notes that prayer is not "in vain"
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Pope Francis today proposed a "heartfelt appeal [. . .] for peace in the Holy Land" and a minute of silence after praying the Angelus together with the pilgrims gathered in St Peter's Square.
First, the pope called on those present but also "those who have political responsibilities at local and international levels" to "continue to pray". The pontiff mentioned the meeting on 8 June in the Vatican gardens, with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas "with whom we invoked the gift of peace and heard the call to break the cycle of hatred and violence."
Speaking about it, he said, "Some people might think that such a meeting took place in vain. I disagree because prayer helps us not to allow ourselves to be overcome by evil, nor accept that violence and hatred take over from dialogue and reconciliation."
"I urge," he added, "the interested parties and all those who have political responsibilities at local and international levels to spare no prayer or effort to put an end to all hostilities and achieve the desired peace for the good of everyone. I invite everyone to join in prayer."
At this point, the pope called upon everyone to pray in silence, and then went on to say, "Now, Lord, help us! Grant us peace, teach us peace, lead us toward peace. Open our eyes and our hearts and give us the courage to say, 'Never again war!' [. . .] With war, everything is destroyed. Instill in us the courage to take concrete actions to build peace. [. . .] Make us willing to listen to the cry of our citizens who ask us to turn our weapons into tools of peace, our fears into trust and our in tensions into forgiveness."
Earlier the pontiff had commented on the Sunday Gospel (Matthew, 13:1-23), that of the sower who "incaustiously throws his seed on all types of grounds."
Jesus, the pope said, explained the parable. "The seed that fell on the path indicates those who listen to the proclamation of the Kingdom of God but do not receive it. Thus, the evil one comes and takes them away. In fact, the devil does not want the seed of Gospel to sprout in the hearts of men. This is the first comparison. The second is that of the seed that fell on the rocky ground: it is the people who hear the word of God, and receive it immediately but superficially, because they have no roots and are inconstant; when trials and tribulations arrive, these people lose heart immediately. The third case is that of the seed that fell among the thorns. Jesus explains that it refers to the people who hear the word but, because of worldly concerns and the lure of riches, remain stifled. Finally, the seed that fell on rich soil represents those who hear the word, welcome it, keep it, and understand it, and it bears fruit. The perfect model of this good earth is the Virgin Mary. "
"This parable," he concluded, "speaks to each of us today, as it did to those who listened to Jesus two thousand years ago. It reminds us that we are the ground where the Lord tirelessly throws the seed of His Word and His love. With what provisions do we welcome it? How is our heart? To what ground does it look like: a road, a rocky ground, or a bush? It depends on us whether we become good soil without thorns or stones, tilled and cultivated with care, so that it can bear good results for us and for our brothers."
"It will do us good to remember that we are sowers," the pontiff then said off the cuff. "God sows good seed. And we can ask ourselves, what kind of seed comes out of our mouth? Our words can do so much good and so much evil; they can hurt and heal, encourage and depress. Let us remember that what comes from the heart is important, not what goes in."
After the Marian prayer and call for peace in the Holy Land, Francis mentioned that today is Sea Sunday. "I extend my thoughts," he said, "to seafarers, fishermen and their families. I urge Christian communities, particularly coastal ones, to be concerned and sensitive towards them. I invite chaplains and volunteers of the Apostleship of the Sea to remain committed to the pastoral care of these brothers and sisters. I entrust everyone, especially those who are in trouble and away from home, to the maternal protection of Mary, Star of the Sea. "
Addressing the many pilgrims connected to the Camillian family, who are celebrating the 400th anniversary of the death of Saint Camillus de Lellis, the pope urged them "to be a sign of the Lord Jesus who, as a Good Samaritan, leans over the wounds of suffering humanity's body and spirit, pouring the oil of consolation and the wine of hope. To you gathered here in St Peter's Square, as well as to health professionals serving in your hospitals and nursing homes, I express my best wishes to grow more and more in the charisma of charity, fed by daily contact with the sick."
At the end, before he told everyone "good lunch", he said, "And please, do not forget to pray for me."