Pope Francis arrives in St. Peter's Square for an audience with Altar boys and girls from across Europe - AP
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis met Tuesday with thousands of altar servers from around Europe. The encounter in Saint Peter’s Square was part of the ninth International Pilgrimage of Acolytes and Altar Servers.
In his prepared remarks, Pope Francis reflected on the theme of this year’s pilgrimage, “Here I am: Send me!” The Holy Father told the young people, “It is important to realize that being close to Jesus and knowing him in the Eucharist through your service at the altar, enables you to open yourselves to others, to journey together, to set demanding goals and to find the strength to achieve them.”
The International Pilgrimage of Altar Servers, which takes place every five years, is organized by the group Coetus Internationalis Ministrantium, a group that includes representatives from countries throughout Europe, including Germany, Italy, and France, as well as smaller countries such as Croatia, Luxembourg, Serbia, and Slovakia. The international pilgrimage allows altar servers to take part in a unique experience for their service, and helps them to discover the diversity of the universal Church.
Address of Pope Francis to the International Pilgrimage of Altar Servers
Saint Peter’s Square, 4 August 2015
Dear Altar Servers,
I thank you all for coming in such great numbers; you have withstood the heat of the sun in Rome in August. I thank Bishop Német, your President, for his words of introduction and greeting. You have come from a variety of countries on pilgrimage to Rome, the city where the Apostles Peter and Paul were martyred.
It is important to realize that being close to Jesus and knowing him in the Eucharist through your service at the altar, enables you to open yourselves to others, to journey together, to set demanding goals and to find the strength to achieve them. It is a source of real joy to recognize that we are small and weak, all the while knowing that, with Jesus’ help, we can be strengthened and take up the challenge of life’s great journey in his company.
The prophet Isaiah also discovered this truth, which is to say that God purified his intentions, forgave his sins, healed his heart and made him ready to take up the important task of bringing God’s word to his people. In so doing, he became an instrument of the presence of divine mercy. Isaiah realized that, by entrusting himself into the hands of the Lord, his whole existence would be transformed.
The biblical verse that we have just heard speaks to us precisely of this. Isaiah had a vision of the glory of the Lord. At the same time, the vision showed to him that, although the Lord revealed himself, he still remained far off.
Isaiah was astonished to discover that it was God who made the first move; do not forget this! It is always God who makes the first move in our life. God is the one drawing close. He noticed that God’s actions were not impeded by his imperfections; it was God’s goodness alone that enabled him to take up the mission, transforming him into a totally new person and therefore one able to respond to the call of the Lord, saying, “Here I am! Send me” (Is 6:8).
You are more fortunate today than the prophet Isaiah. In the Eucharist and in the other sacraments, you experience the intimate closeness of Jesus, the sweetness and power of his presence. You do not encounter Jesus placed on an inaccessibly high throne, but in the bread and wine of the Eucharist. His word does not shake the doorposts, but rather caresses the strings of the heart. Like Isaiah, each of you sees that God, although making himself close to us in Jesus and bending down towards you with love, remains always immeasurably greater, beyond our ability to understand him in his deepest being. Like Isaiah, you too have experienced that it is always God who takes the lead, because it is he who created you and willed you into being. It is he who, in your baptism, has made you into a new creation; he is always patiently waiting for your response to his initiative, offering forgiveness to whoever asks him in humility.
If we do not resist him, Jesus will touch our lips with the flame of his merciful love, as he did to the prophet Isaiah. This will make us worthy to receive him and to bring him to our brothers and sisters. Like Isaiah, we too are invited to not remain closed in on ourselves, protecting our faith in an underground bunker to which we flee in difficult moments. Rather, we are called to share the joy of knowing we are chosen and saved by God’s mercy, the joy of being witnesses to the fact that faith gives new direction to our steps, that it makes us free and strong so as to be ready and able for mission.
How beautiful it is to realize that faith brings us out of ourselves, out of our isolation. Precisely because we are filled with the joy of being friends with Jesus Christ, faith draws us towards others, making us natural missionaries!
Dear altar boys and altar girls, the closer you are to the altar, the more you will remember to speak with Jesus in daily prayer; the more you will be nourished by the Word and the Body of the Lord, the better able you will be to go out to others, bringing them the gift that you have received, giving in turn with enthusiasm the joy you have received.
Thank you for serving at the Lord’s altar and for making of this service a real school of learning the faith, and charity toward your neighbour. Thank you also for having begun to respond to the Lord, like the prophet Isaiah, “Here I am. Send me” (Is 6:8).
Memorial of Saint John Vianney, Priest Lectionary: 408
Reading 1NM 12:1-13
Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses on the pretext of the marriage he had contracted with a Cushite woman. They complained, “Is it through Moses alone that the LORD speaks? Does he not speak through us also?” And the LORD heard this. Now, Moses himself was by far the meekest man on the face of the earth. So at once the LORD said to Moses and Aaron and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the meeting tent.” And the three of them went. Then the LORD came down in the column of cloud, and standing at the entrance of the tent, called Aaron and Miriam. When both came forward, he said, “Now listen to the words of the LORD:
Should there be a prophet among you, in visions will I reveal myself to him, in dreams will I speak to him; not so with my servant Moses! Throughout my house he bears my trust: face to face I speak to him; plainly and not in riddles. The presence of the LORD he beholds.
Why, then, did you not fear to speak against my servant Moses?”
So angry was the LORD against them that when he departed, and the cloud withdrew from the tent, there was Miriam, a snow-white leper! When Aaron turned and saw her a leper, he said to Moses, “Ah, my lord! Please do not charge us with the sin that we have foolishly committed! Let her not thus be like the stillborn babe that comes forth from its mother’s womb with its flesh half consumed.” Then Moses cried to the LORD, “Please, not this! Pray, heal her!”
Responsorial PsalmPS 51:3-4, 5-6AB, 6CD-7, 12-13
R. (see 3a) Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned. Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness; in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense. Thoroughly wash me from my guilt and of my sin cleanse me. R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned. For I acknowledge my offense; and my sin is before me always: “Against you only have I sinned; and done what is evil in your sight.” R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned. That you may be justified in your sentence, vindicated when you condemn. Indeed, in guilt was I born, and in sin my mother conceived me. R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned. A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew within me. Cast me not off from your presence, and your Holy Spirit take not from me. R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
R. Alleluia, alleluia. Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel. R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and precede him to the other side of the sea, while he dismissed the crowds. After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone. Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear. At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” After they got into the boat, the wind died down. Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”
After making the crossing, they came to land at Gennesaret. When the men of that place recognized him, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought to him all those who were sick and begged him that they might touch only the tassel on his cloak, and as many as touched it were healed.
OrMT 15:1-2, 10-14
Some Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They do not wash their hands when they eat a meal.” He summoned the crowd and said to them, “Hear and understand. It is not what enters one’s mouth that defiles the man; but what comes out of the mouth is what defiles one.” Then his disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?” He said in reply, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”