01/22/2023, 13.47
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Pope's 'pain' over destruction of Myanmar's Our Lady of the Assumption church

In his homily during Mass for Sunday of the Word of God, Francis brands a Church with a "narrow" heart a "curse"; the "pilgrim" Jesus widens boundaries. Wishes for the Lunar New Year and "spiritual closeness" to those in trial; prayer for Ukraine and the people who "suffer so much." After the Angelus he defines the "call" as the "decisive" moment for every Christian; the "courage to leave" the quiet life to follow and open oneself "to the unpredictable." 

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "With sorrow my thoughts go in particular to Myanmar, where the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption in the village of Chan Thar, one of the oldest and most important places of worship in the country, was burned and destroyed."

This is what Pope Francis emphasized today at the Angelus, attacking the violence of the military junta [while not directly naming it] against "the defenseless civilian population" to whom he says he is "close" and who "in many cities are under severe trial."

His Angelus appeal continued: "May God grant that this conflict may soon end and that a new time of forgiveness, love and peace may open."

He also called on all those in the Far East and various parts of the world celebrating "the Lunar New Year," to invoke "peace" and in the "joyful circumstance" expresses "spiritual closeness" to those "going through moments of trial" caused by the pandemic. He hoped that "kindness, sensitivity and harmony in families" permeate "our family and social relationships," and ending the Marian prayer his thoughts went to Cameroon, Peru and the "tormented Ukraine" and its people "who suffer so much," for whom he asks to "invoke peace." 

But this is also, and above all, the Sunday of the Word of God, and the Pope used the opportunity to issue a harsh warning: He warned "may we never profess a wide-hearted God and be a narrow-hearted Church," because that would be a real "curse."

"Salvation is meant for everyone," even the most "distant and lost," the pope reminds, and proclamation becomes "the main urgency" of the ecclesial community.

"Let us learn from Jesus," he continues, "to put the Word at the center, to widen our boundaries, to open ourselves to people, to generate experiences of encounter with the Lord, knowing that the Word of God is not crystallized in abstract and static formulas, but knows a dynamic history made up of people and events, words and actions, developments and tensions."

With a call to dynamism, conversion and proclamation Pope Francis celebrated the Mass of the Sunday of the Word of God, instituted with Motu proprio Aperuit Illis on Sept. 30, 2019 on the third Sunday of Ordinary Time and now in its fourth edition.

This year, the Day takes up a passage from the Gospel of John: "We proclaim to you what we have seen." During the service a group of lay men and women were given the ministry of Lector and Catechist. Among them are faithful from the Philippines, Congo and Mexico to symbolize the universal Church. The day chosen by the pope is the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time, during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and in proximity to the Day of Dialogue between Jews and Catholics.

Recalling Christ's decision to leave the quiet life in Nazareth to be "always on the move," Francis urges us to grasp its "dynamism" in order to witness "to all" the word of God. Jesus, he warned, is not a "doctor sitting in a cathedra; on the contrary, we see him itinerant and a pilgrim, traveling through towns and villages, meeting faces and stories," and in this way "widening the boundaries" because the Good News "is not intended only for the righteous of Israel, but for everyone."

In his homily, the pope then listed the second aspect: "the Word of God, which is addressed to everyone, calls to conversion." A word that "shakes us, makes us uncomfortable, provokes us to change, to conversion," which challenges because it is "alive."

"Like a sword, the Word penetrates life, making us discern," he warns, "feelings and thoughts of the heart, that is, making us see what is the light of goodness to which to give space and where instead the darkness of vices and sins to fight thickens. And this, he points out, "is the way the Council has shown us" by remaining "united in the one Church of Christ." 

The third and final passage recalls the task of proclamation, which does not happen by proselytizing but by attraction. From the shores of the Sea of Galilee, when he calls Simon and Andrew, Jesus becomes "fisherman of men" and "draws us into the 'net' of the Father's love," becoming apostles who first "feel the irrepressible desire to get everyone they meet into the boat of the Kingdom."

Thanking those who become bearers of the proclamation, the pope recalls "our mission: to become seekers of the lost, the oppressed and challenged, to bring them not ourselves, but the consolation of the Word, the disruptive proclamation of God that transforms lives."

In introducing the Marian prayer, the pontiff finally delved into the Gospel passage of the call of the first disciples, in which he addresses to them a direct invitation, "Follow me!" "To leave in order to follow" is the method used by Jesus, who confronts them with a choice that represents the "decisive moment for every Christian" because "here the meaning of everything is at stake: if one does not find the courage to set out, there is the risk," the pope warned, "of remaining a spectator of one's own existence and of living the faith half-heartedly. That is why being with Christ requires "the courage to leave behind" not only vices and sins, but also "fears, selfish calculations, guarantees."

Among the examples, the pontiff - who asks the faithful to always carry in their bag a copy, even a small one, of the Bible - cites the choice of a young family to "open themselves to the unpredictable and beautiful adventure of motherhood and fatherhood" or "a doctor or a health care worker" with their sacrifices and renunciations.

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