01/24/2021, 12.47
VATICAN
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Pope urges faithful to turn off TV and cell phone and open the Bible

On the second Sunday of the Word of God, Pope Francis urges believers to make room for God’s in their daily life. The pontiff, who was unable to lead the Mass due to sciatica pain, was replaced by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation. A television actor, a journalist, and a blind girl proclaimed the Mass readings.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – In his homily at the Mass for the second Sunday of the Word of God, Pope Francis asked the “Lord for the strength to turn off the television and open the Bible, to turn off our cell phone and open the Gospel.”

This is the second edition of this Sunday, which the pontiff established in 2019 to boost interest in the Holy Scriptures. The Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelisation organised it, and its president, Archbishop Rino Fisichella, led today's Mass because Pope Francis is suffering from a sciatica attack and could not take part.

The Holy See Press Office announced that tomorrow, the Holy Father will not be able to preside over vespers together with representatives of other Christian denominations in the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. Card Kurt Koch will take his place. Similarly, the meeting with the diplomatic corps, scheduled for tomorrow as well, has been postponed.

At Mass today, Archbishop Fisichella read the pontiff’s homely. Taking his inspiration from today’s Gospel (Mark 1:14-20), the Pope stressed what Jesus said and to whom he said it.

“‘God is near’ was the leitmotif of his preaching, the heart of his message,” and this is “the one constant of the Christian life and message. [. . .] Prior to every word of ours about God, there is his word to us, his Word who continues to tell us: ‘Do not be afraid, I am with you. I am at your side and I will always be there’.”

The closeness of God’s Word “is the antidote to our fear of having to face life alone. Indeed, by his word the Lord consoles us, that is, he stands “with” (con-) those who are “alone” (soli). In speaking to us, he reminds us that he has taken us to heart, that we are precious in his eyes, and that he holds us in the palm of his hand.”

At the same time, “God’s word infuses this peace, but it does not leave us in peace. It is a word of consolation but also a call to conversion [. . .] Those who hear God’s word are constantly reminded that life is not about shielding ourselves from others, but about encountering them in the name of God who is near. The word sown in the soil of our hearts, leads us in turn to sow hope through closeness to others. Even as God has done with us.”

In the second part of the homily, to whom he said it, Francis shows the difference between the preaching of conversion of John the Baptist and that of Jesus. “John received people in the desert, where only those able to leave their homes could go. Jesus, on the other hand, speaks of God in the heart of society, to everyone, wherever they find themselves. He does not speak at fixed times or places, but “walking along the shore”, to fishermen who were “casting their nets” (v. 16). He speaks to people in the most ordinary times and places. Here we see the universal power of the word of God to reach everyone and every area of life.”

Speaking to the first disciples, “He did not appeal to them using lofty words and ideas, but spoke to their lives. He told fishermen that they were to be fishers of men. [. . .] The Lord does the same with us: he looks for us where we are, he loves us as we are, and he patiently walks by our side. As he did with those fishermen, he waits for us on the shore of our life. With his word, he wants to change us, to invite us to live fuller lives and to put out into the deep together with him.”

In concluding, the Pope urged the faithful to find room for God’s Word in everyday life. “So dear brothers and sisters, let us not ignore God’s word. It is a love letter, written to us by the One who knows us best. In reading it, we again hear his voice, see his face and receive his Spirit.

“That word brings us close to God. Let us not keep it at arm’s length, but carry it with us always, in our pocket, on our phone. Let us give it a worthy place in our homes. Let us set the Gospel in a place where we can remember to open it daily, perhaps at the beginning and at the end of the day, so that amid all those words that ring in our ears, there may also be a few verses of the word of God that can touch our hearts.

“To be able to do this, let us ask the Lord for the strength to turn off the television and open the Bible, to turn off our cell phone and open the Gospel. During this liturgical year, we are reading Saint Mark, the simplest and the shortest of the Gospels. Why not read it at home too, even a brief passage each day. It will make us feel God’s closeness to us and fill us with courage as we make our way through life.”

As a sign of the universality of God’s Word, a television actor, a journalist, and a blind girl proclaimed the Mass readings. At the end of the celebration, copies of the bible were handed out to people from different walks of life.

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