Pope Francis says "...Jesus prays: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" This is also our prayer in the moments of life marked by suffering; it is the prayer that every day rises to God..." FULL TEXT in Malta


(APRIL 2-3 2022)



National Shrine of "Ta 'Pinu" in Gozo
Saturday, April 2, 2022

 At the cross of Jesus there are Mary and John. The Mother who gave birth to the Son of God is saddened by her death as darkness envelops the world; the beloved disciple, who had left everything to follow him, is now standing at the feet of the crucified Master. 

Everything seems lost, everything seems to be gone forever. And while he takes upon himself the wounds of humanity, Jesus prays: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Mt 27.46; Mk 15.34). This is also our prayer in the moments of life marked by suffering; it is the prayer that every day rises to God from your heart, Sandi and Domenico: thank you for the perseverance of your love, thank you for your testimony of faith!

Yet, the hour of Jesus - which in John's Gospel is the hour of death on the cross - does not represent the conclusion of history, but marks the beginning of a new life. At the cross, in fact, we contemplate the merciful love of Christ, who opens his arms wide to us and, through his death, opens us to the joy of eternal life. From the hour of the end a life that begins opens up; from that hour of death another hour full of life begins: it is the time of the Church that is born. From that original cell the Lord will gather a people, who will continue to cross the impervious roads of history, carrying the consolation of the Spirit in their hearts, with which to dry the tears of humanity.

Brothers and sisters, from this Shrine of Ta 'Pinu we can meditate together on the new beginning that flows from the hour of Jesus. Even in this place, before the splendid building we see today, there was only a small chapel in a state of neglect. The demolition had been ordered: it seemed the end. But a series of events changed the course of things, as if the Lord wanted to say to this population: "No one will call you Abandoned, nor will your land be called Devastated, but you will be called My Joy and your land Married" ( Is62.4). That small church has become the National Shrine, a destination for pilgrims and a source of new life. You reminded us, Jennifer: here many entrust their sufferings and joys to Our Lady, and everyone feels welcomed. St. John Paul II also came here as a pilgrim, whose anniversary is today the anniversary of his death. A place that seemed lost, now regenerates faith and hope in the People of God.

In light of this, let us try to accept for ourselves the invitation of the hour of Jesus, of that hour of salvation. It tells us that, in order to renew our faith and the mission of the community, we are called to return to that beginning, to the nascent Church that we see at the cross in Mary and John. But what does it mean to go back to that beginning? What does it mean to go back to basics?

First of all, it is a question of rediscovering the essential of faith. Returning to the Church of the origins does not mean looking back to copy the ecclesial model of the first Christian community. We cannot "skip history", as if the Lord had not spoken and worked great things also in the life of the Church in the following centuries. Nor does it mean being too idealistic, imagining that there were no difficulties in that community; on the contrary, we read that the disciples argue and even quarrel among themselves, and that they do not always understand the teachings of the Lord. Rather, returning to the origins means recovering the spirit of the first Christian community, that is, returning to the heart and rediscovering the centerof faith: the relationship with Jesus and the proclamation of his Gospel to the whole world. And this is the essential! This is the joy of the Church: to evangelize.

In fact, we see that, after the hour of Jesus' death, the first disciples, like Mary Magdalene and John, having seen the empty tomb, without wasting time, with trembling hearts, run to go and announce the good news of the Resurrection. The weeping of pain at the cross is transformed into the joy of the announcement. And I also think of the Apostles, of whom it is written: "Every day, in the temple and in the houses, they kept teaching and proclaiming that Jesus is the Christ" ( Acts 5:42). The main concern of the disciples of Jesus was not the prestige of the community and its ministers, it was not social influence, it was not the refinement of worship. No. The restlessness that moved them was the proclamation and witness of the Gospel of Christ (cf. Rom1.1), because the joy of the Church is to evangelize.

Brothers and sisters, the Maltese Church boasts a precious history from which to draw so many spiritual and pastoral riches. However, the life of the Church - let us always remember - is never just "a past history to remember", but a "great future to be built", docile to God's plans. A faith made up of handed down customs, of solemn celebrations cannot suffice. , beautiful popular occasions, strong and exciting moments; we need a faith that is founded and renewed in the personal encounter with Christ, in the daily listening to his Word, in active participation in the life of the Church, in the soul of popular piety.

The crisis of faith, the apathy of believing practice especially in the post-pandemic and the indifference of many young people towards the presence of God are not issues that we must "soften", thinking that after all a certain religious spirit still resists, no. Sometimes, in fact, the scaffolding can be religious, but behind that dress faith ages. Indeed, the elegant wardrobe of religious clothes does not always correspond to a lively faith animated by the dynamism of evangelization. It is necessary to be vigilant so that religious practices are not reduced to the repetition of a repertoire of the past, but express a living, open faith that spreads the joy of the Gospel, because the joy of the Church is to evangelize.

I know that you have begun, through the Synod, a process of renewal: I thank you for this journey. Brothers, sisters, this is the time to return to that beginning, under the cross, looking at the first Christian community. To be a Church that cares about friendship with Jesus and the proclamation of the Gospel about him, not the search for space and attention; a Church that has testimony at its center and not some religious custom; a Church that wishes to meet everyone with the burning lamp of the Gospel and not to be a closed circle. Do not be afraid to undertake, as you are already doing, new paths, perhaps even risky ones, of evangelization and proclamation, which touch life, because the joy of the Church is to evangelize.

Let's look again at the origins, at Mary and John under the cross. At the sources of the Church is their reciprocal gesture of entrustment. The Lord, in fact, entrusts each to the care of the other: John to Mary and Mary to John, so that "from that hour the disciple took her with him" ( Jn 19:27). Returning to the beginning also means developing the art of welcomingAmong the last words of Jesus from the cross, those addressed to the Mother and to John exhort us to make hospitality the perennial style of discipleship. It was not, in fact, a simple gesture of piety, for which Jesus entrusted his mother to John so that she would not remain alone after her death, but a concrete indication on how to live the supreme commandment, that of love. . Worship of God passes through closeness to one's brother.

And how important is the love between the brothers and the welcoming of the neighbor in the Church! The Lord reminds us of this in the hour of the cross, in the mutual acceptance of Mary and John, exhorting the Christian community of all times not to lose this priority. "Behold your son", "Behold your mother" (vv. 26.27); it is like saying: you are saved by the same blood, you are one family, therefore welcome each other, love one another, heal each other's wounds. Without suspicion, without divisions, rumors, gossip and mistrust. Brothers and sisters, make a "synod", that is, "walk together". Because God is present where love reigns!

Dear friends, mutual acceptance, not out of mere formality but in the name of Christ, is a permanent challenge. It is so above all for our ecclesial relations, because our mission bears fruit if we work in friendship and fraternal communion. You are two beautiful communities, Malta and Gozo, Gozo and Malta - I don't know which is the most important or which is the first! - just like two were Maria and Giovanni! May the words of Jesus on the cross then be your guiding star, to welcome each other, to create familiarity, to work in communion! And always moving forward in evangelization, because the joy of the Church is to evangelize.

But the welcome is also the litmus test to verify how effectively the Church is permeated by the spirit of the Gospel. Mary and John are welcomed not in the warm refuge of the cenacle, but at the cross, in that dark place where they were condemned and crucified as criminals. And we too, cannot welcome each other alone, in the shadow of our beautiful Churches, while outside many brothers and sisters suffer and are crucified by pain, misery, poverty, violence. You are in a crucial geographical position, overlooking the Mediterranean as a pole of attraction and a haven of salvation for many people tossed about by the storms of life who, for different reasons, arrive on your shores. In the face of these poor it is Christ himself who presents himself to you. This was the experience of the Apostle Paul who, after a terrible shipwreck, was warmly welcomed by your ancestors. The Acts of the Apostles state: "The inhabitants welcomed us all around a fire, which they had lit because the rain had come and it was cold" (Acts 28: 2).

Here is the Gospel we are called to live: to welcome, to be experts in humanity, to kindle fires of tenderness when the cold of life hangs over those who suffer. And also in this case from a dramatic experience something important was born, because Paul announced and spread the Gospel and, later, many heralds, preachers, priests and missionaries followed in his footsteps, pushed by the Holy Spirit, to evangelize, to bring forward the joy of the Church which is to evangelize. I would like to say a special thanks to them, to these evangelizers, to the numerous Maltese missionaries who spread the joy of the Gospel throughout the world, to the many priests, to the men and women religious and to all of you. As your bishop, Mgr. Teuma, said, you are a small island, but with a big heart. You are a treasure in the Church and for the Church. I say it again: you are a treasure in the Church and for the Church. To safeguard it, we must return to the essence of Christianity: to the love of God, the engine of our joy, which makes us go out and walk the roads of the world; and to welcoming our neighbor, which is our simplest and most beautiful witness in the world, and thus to go forward along the roads of the world, because the joy of the Church is to evangelize.

May the Lord accompany you on this path and the Holy Virgin guide you. May she, who asked us to pray three "Hail Marys" to remind us of her maternal heart, rekindle in us her children the fire of the mission and the desire to take care of one another. May Our Lady keep you and accompany you in evangelization.

FULL TEXT Source: Vatican.va - Image Screenshot same