If you were paying attention today, you heard your Holy Father inviting you to fall in love not only with Holy Week, but more deeply with the world around you. This Rome Reports video captures a bit of the excitement felt at today’s first Wednesday Audience with Pope Francis:
It seems like our new Papa likes to improvise, so it was very nice to find a full, translated version of his teaching from today, a primer on a well-lived Holy Week. My favorite moment was the following:
Some might say to me, “But, Father, I have no time”, “I have so many things to do”, “it is difficult”, “what can I do with my little strength?”, with my sin, with so many things? Often we settle for a few prayers, a distracted and inconsistent presence at Sunday Mass, a random act of charity, but we lack this courage to “step outside” to bring Christ. We are a bit like St. Peter. As soon as Jesus speaks of the Passion, Death and Resurrection, of self-giving, of love for all, the Apostle takes him aside and rebukes him. What Jesus says upsets his plans, seems unacceptable, undermines the sense of security that he had built up, his idea of the Messiah. And Jesus looks at the disciples and addresses Peter with perhaps one of the strongest words of the Gospel: “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do”(Mk 8:33). God always thinks with mercy: do not forget this. God always thinks with mercy: our merciful Father. God thinks like a father who awaits the return of his child and goes to meet him, sees him come when he is still far away … What does this mean? That each and every day he went out to see if his son was coming home. This is our merciful Father. It is the sign that he was waiting for him from the terrace of his house; God thinks like the Samaritan that does not approach the victim to commiserate with him, or look the other way, but to rescue him without asking for anything in return, without asking if he was Jew, if he was pagan, a Samaritan, rich or poor: he does not ask anything. He does not ask these things, he asks for nothing. He goes to his aid: This is how God thinks. God thinks like the shepherd who gives his life to defend and save his sheep.
Holy Week is a time of grace which the Lord gifts us to open the doors of our hearts, our lives, our parishes – what a pity, so many parishes are closed! – in our parishes, movements, associations, and to “step outside” towards others, to draw close to them so we can bring the light and joy of our faith. Always step outside yourself! And with the love and tenderness of God, with respect and patience, knowing that we put our hands, our feet, our hearts, but then it is God who guides them and makes all our actions fruitful.
That first line I’ve quoted above might have been directed at the pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square, but they found their target in my heart. So busy… so overwhelmed… and yet so desirous to live this challenge he has called us to in my own life…
To “step outside”.
To draw close to them so we can bring the light and joy of our faith.
That, my friends, is at the heart of the New Evangelization. Stepping outside means leaving my comfort zone, my “sweet spot” where I feel confident and equipped. Stepping outside means putting others before myself and trusting that God will equip me with all I need to love, to serve, to help. Stepping outside means not waiting around to be told, “Good job!”, but rather moving even a step further without being asked.
I still have much to learn about how to respond to the challenges Pope Francis continually places before me. But the good news for me — and for you as well — is that we are never alone.
I challenge you to read the full text of today’s audience and to pray about what “stepping outside” looks like in your life.