St. Peter's Square
Wednesday, 4 December 2019
Catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles - 17. "Watch over yourselves and over the whole flock" (Acts 20:28). Paul's ministry in Ephesus and leave from the elders
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
The journey of the Gospel in the world continues unabated in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, and passes through the city of Ephesus showing all its salvific significance. Thanks to Paul, about twelve men receive baptism in the name of Jesus and experience the outpouring of the Holy Spirit who regenerates them (see Acts 19: 1-7). The prodigies that take place through the Apostle are different: the sick recover and the obsessed are freed (see Acts 19: 11-12). This happens because the disciple resembles his Master (see Lk 6,40) and makes him present by communicating to his brothers the same new life that he received from Him.
The power of God that breaks into Ephesus unmasks those who want to use the name of Jesus to perform exorcisms but without having the spiritual authority to do so (see Acts 19: 13-17), and reveals the weakness of the magical arts, which are abandoned by a large number of people who choose Christ and abandon the magical arts (see Acts 19: 18-19). A real reversal for a city, like Ephesus, which was a center famous for the practice of magic! Luke thus emphasizes the incompatibility between faith in Christ and magic. If you choose Christ you cannot have recourse to the magician: faith is trustful abandonment in the hands of a reliable God who makes himself known not through hidden practices but by revelation and with gratuitous love. Perhaps some of you will tell me: "Ah, yes, this magic is an ancient thing: today, with Christian civilization this does not happen". But be careful! I ask you: how many of you go to get tarot cards done, how many of you go to get your hands read from fortune tellers or have your cards read? Even today, in the big cities, practicing Christians do these things. And to the question: "But why, if you believe in Jesus Christ, do you go to the magician, to the fortune teller, to all these people?", They answer: "I believe in Jesus Christ but out of luck I also go to them". Please: magic is not Christian! These things that are done to guess the future or guess many things or change life situations are not Christian. The grace of Christ brings you everything: pray and entrust yourself to the Lord.
The spread of the Gospel in Ephesus damages the trade in silversmiths - another problem - which manufactured the statues of the goddess Artemis, making a religious practice a real bargain. I ask you to think about this. Seeing that activity that yielded a lot of money diminish, the silversmiths organize a riot against Paul, and Christians are accused of having undermined the category of artisans, the sanctuary of Artemis and the cult of this goddess (see Acts 19: 23-28 ).
Paul then left Ephesus for Jerusalem and reached Miletus (see Acts 20: 1-16). Here he sent for the elders of the Church of Ephesus - the presbyters: they would be the priests - to make a "pastoral" handover (see Acts 20: 17-35). We are at the end of the apostolic ministry of Paul and Luke presents his farewell address, a sort of spiritual testament that the Apostle addresses to those who, after his departure, will have to lead the community of Ephesus. And this is one of the most beautiful pages of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles: I advise you to take the New Testament, the Bible, chapter XX today and read this farewell to Paul from the presbyters of Ephesus, and he does so in Miletus. It is a way of understanding how the Apostle is dismissed and also how priests today must take leave and also how all Christians must take their leave. It's a beautiful page.
In the exhortation part, Paul encourages the leaders of the community, who knows he sees for the last time. And what does he say to them? "Watch over yourself and the whole flock". This is the work of the shepherd: waking, watching over himself and the flock. The pastor must watch over, the pastor must watch, do the vigil, the presbyters must watch, the Bishops, the Pope must watch. Do the vigil to guard the flock, and also to watch over oneself, examine the conscience and see how this duty to watch is accomplished. "Watch over yourselves and over the whole flock, in the midst of which the Holy Spirit has constituted you as guardians to be shepherds of the Church of God, which was acquired with the blood of his own Son" (Acts 20:28): so says Saint Paul. The maximum closeness to the flock is demanded of the bishops, redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, and the readiness to defend it from the "wolves" (v. 29). The Bishops must be very close to the people to guard it, to defend it; not detached from the people. Having entrusted this task to the leaders of Ephesus, Paul puts them in the hands of God and entrusts them to the "word of his grace" (v. 32), the leaven of all growth and the path of holiness in the Church, inviting them to work with their own hands, like him, not to be a burden to others, to help the weak and to experience that "one is more blessed in giving than in receiving" (v. 35).
Dear brothers and sisters, let us ask the Lord to renew in us love for the Church and for the deposit of the faith that it preserves, and to make us all co-responsible in the custody of the flock, supporting the pastors in prayer so that they manifest firmness and tenderness of the Divine Shepherd.
Greetings in Various Languages:
Je salue cordialement les pèlerins de langue française, en particulier la Délégation Lorraine, avec Monseigneur Jean-Louis Papin, et l’Association des amis de Saint Nicolas des Lorrains. Demandons au Seigneur de renouveler en nous l’amour de l’Eglise pour le dépôt de la foi dont elle est la gardienne, soutenant par la prière ses pasteurs afin qu’ils manifestent toujours la vigilance et la tendresse du Christ lui-même. Que Dieu vous bénisse !
I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, especially the groups from Malta, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Canada and the United States of America. I pray that each of you, and your families, may experience a blessed Advent, in preparation for the coming of the newborn Saviour at Christmas. May God bless you!
Herzlich grüße ich die Pilger deutscher Sprache, insbesondere die Mitglieder und Freunde der Schönstattbewegung und die Gruppe aus der Pfarre Sankt Martin Riegersburg. Beten wir für alle Hirten der Kirche, dass sie mit der Standhaftigkeit und Zärtlichkeit des Guten Hirten die ihnen anvertraute Herde leiten, indem sie den Schatz des Glaubens treu bewahren und freimütig weitergeben.
Saludo cordialmente a los peregrinos de lengua española, venidos de España y de Latinoamérica. Pidamos al Señor un renovado amor por la Iglesia tomando conciencia de nuestra responsabilidad ante nuestros hermanos, y rezando además por los pastores, para que revelen la firmeza y la ternura del Buen Pastor. Que Dios los bendiga a todos.
Saúdo com afeto os peregrinos de língua portuguesa, em particular o grupo brasileiro de Nossa Senhora do Livramento, de Vitória de Santo Antão, encorajando-vos a todos a apostar em ideais grandes, ideais de serviço que engrandecem o coração e tornam fecundos os vossos talentos. Confiai em Deus, como a Virgem Maria!
[I greet with affection the Portuguese-speaking pilgrims, in particular the Brazilian group Nossa Senhora do Livramento, of Vitória de Santo Antão, encouraging you all to bet on great ideals, ideals of service that broaden the heart and make your talents fruitful. Trust in God, like the Virgin Mary!]
أرحبُ بالحاضرينَ الناطقينَ باللغة العربية، وخاصةً القادمينَ من الأراضي المقدسة ومن مصر ومنَ الشرقِ الأوسط. أدعوكم مع بداية زمن المجيء إلى عيش خبرة أن السعادة في العطاء هي أعظم منها في الأخذ، وإن الله يُحِبُّ مَن يعطي مُتَهَلِّلاً. ليُبارِكْكُم الربُّ جميعًا ويَحرُسْكُم دائمًا من الشرير!
[I cordially welcome the Arabic-speaking pilgrims, in particular those from the Holy Land, Egypt and the Middle East. I invite you at the beginning of Advent to experience that "one is more blessed in giving than in receiving", and that God loves one who gives with joy. May the Lord bless you all and always protect you from the evil one!]
Serdecznie witam polskich pielgrzymów. Pozdrawiam szczególnie organizatorów i uczestników konferencji poświęconej księdzu Jerzemu Popiełuszce, jaka miała miejsce na Uniwersytecie Urbanianum, na rozpoczęcie wystawy jemu poświęconej. Dziękuję wam za podtrzymywanie pamięci tego gorliwego kapłana i męczennika, który, barbarzyńsko zamordowany przez służby komunistyczne, oddał życie z miłości do Chrystusa, do Kościoła i do ludzi, zwłaszcza pozbawionych wolności i godności.
W niedzielę, w Polsce przypada XX Dzień modlitwy i pomocy materialnej Kościołowi na Wschodzie”. Polecam wam to ważne dzieło i dziękuję wszystkim Polakom, którzy angażują się na rzecz sąsiadujących Kościołów, w duchu braterskiej miłości. Niech Bóg wam błogosławi!
[I welcome Polish pilgrims. In a special way I greet the organizers and participants of the conference dedicated to Blessed Father Popieluszko, which took place at the Urbaniana University, at the opening of the exhibition dedicated to him. I thank you for maintaining the memory of this zealous priest and martyr who, brutally murdered by the communist services, gave his life for the love of Christ, of the Church and of men, especially those deprived of freedom and dignity.
Sunday in Poland the XX Day of Prayer and Help for the Church of the East falls. I commend this important work to you and I thank all the Poles who are committed to the neighboring Churches, in the spirit of brotherly love. God bless you!]
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I warmly welcome the Italian-speaking pilgrims. In particular, I greet the professors of Seminaries of Mission Territories, who participate in the course promoted by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples; and parish groups.
I also greet the participants in the National Assembly of the Italian Federation of Educational Activities; the boys of Calusco d’Adda; the Galatone Senior Center; and the flag-wavers and musicians Città di Foligno.
Finally, I greet the young, the elderly, the sick and newlyweds. Next Friday is the memory of St. Nicholas of Bari. Let us imitate his virtues, learning not to put anything before charity towards those most in need, seeking in it the face of God who became man.