Wednesday of the Third Week of Lent
Holy Mass for the Sixth Anniversary of the Pontificate of Pope Francis
(Seoul Cathedral, March 27, 2019)
of the Most Rev. Hyginus Kim Hee-joong, President of the CBCK
+ Praised be Jesus !
Now we are celebrating the Holy Mass for the sixth anniversary of Pope Francis’ election to the chair of Peter and the inauguration of his Pontificate. During this Eucharistic celebration, we give thanks to God who sent us Pope Francis as supreme pastor and prophet of our times. Let us pray for Pope Francis that God blesses him with light, strength, courage and comfort necessary to his papal ministry. Pope Francis is a true pastor in our times who shows in his word and deed the practical aspects of living out the Gospel. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Holy Father for sending us the Most Rev. Alfred Xuereb as Apostolic Nuncio in Korea, so that he may, on his behalf, be committed to the continuous communication and solidarity between the universal Church and the Church in Korea. Let us pray that God bestow abundantly His comfort and wisdom on the Most Rev. Alfred Xuereb.
At the beginning of the Lent, we all received ashes on our forehead and were invited to a life of true prayer, fasting and charity. Today's reading and Gospel for the Mass remind us Christians of what we have to reflect more deeply during the Lent as a 'season of conversion'. In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses said: "Now, Israel, hear the statutes and decrees which I am teaching you to observe, that you may live, and may enter in and take possession of the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you." To realize the divine promise, then, Moses declared: "However, take care and be earnestly on your guard not to forget the things which your own eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live, but teach them to your children and to your children's children." In other words, God said through Moses that, when they attentively heard and practiced the statutes and decrees of the law, the people of Israel would enter the promised land of Canaan, and would make the other peoples remember them as a wise, intelligent and great nation.
In the Gospel today, Jesus similarly affirmed: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place." Then, what is the core of the statutes and decrees which Moses addressed to the people of Israel to practice? What is the heart of the law which Jesus came to fulfill? It is 'love for God and love for neighbors' which encompasses the whole book of the Deuteronomy and is also the fulfillment of the law mentioned in today's Gospel.
The ad interim Director of the Holy See Press Office, Alessandro Gisotti, looks back Pope Francis' six years as the Successor of Peter, saying that "love, mercy and courage are the key words to understand this pontificate." He also commented that, in his work, he has closely seen how Pope Francis interacts with people he encounters. He gave an example of the Pope's Papal Visit to Panama during the World Youth Day, saying that he saw people crying when encountering Pope Francis. He added that the Pope’s proximity, above all, to the poor, to the ill persons and to the weakest, is a manifestation, truly the manifestation of the love, the mercy of Jesus, of God and the people feel it.
The traces of the Pope, testified by the ad interim Director Gisotti, are to show the key of the statutes and decrees of the law that we heard in today’s reading and gospel. The power of the Pope's charity, practice of love, will be a deep empathy for all the individuals, based on the love of the cross, the ultimate goal of us Christians.
It is well known that, in 2013, Pope Francis met fifty-three-year-old Vinicio Riva, an Italian man with neurofibromatosis. Vinicio Riva testified that he experienced the presence of God within this meeting. He had lived in a small village near Vicenza in northern Italy with his younger sister Morena and their aunt Caterina. Since he was fifteen-year-old, he has suffered from a rare and incurable disease that covers face and body with fleshy growths and causes painful tumors to grow throughout his body. People said that he would be dead around thirty years old. However he lived until he was 53 years old in 2013. Before his death, he with an eagerness to meet Pope Francis made a pilgrimage with his aunt to Rome. Pope saw him among many pilgrims waiting for the general audience in St. Peter’s Square, approached to him and tightly hugged him in silence for a while. Pope kissed and softly patted his wounds. Riva said: “He did not any fear of my illness... He embraced me without speaking.... I felt a great warmth of love.” And he added, “Being embraced by the Pope was like being in Heaven.” His aunt Caterina said “Vinicio Riva feels so blessed with the Pope's hug and changed himself with a sense of being cherished by others.” This is without doubt a manifestation of God's love revealed by Pope Francis.
During six years of his pontificate, Pope Francis delivered homilies more than 1,000 times, made speeches more than 1,200 times, and held general audiences 264 times. He issued his first encyclical Lumen fidei, drafted by his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI, and completed by himself. Subsequently, he issued his second encyclical Laudato sí, and three exhortations: Evangelii gaudium; Amoris laetitia; Gaudete et exsultate. He also issued twenty seven Motu proprio and one bull Misericordiae vultus, with which he proclaimed an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. Besides, he presided over three assemblies of the synod of bishops and made his apostolic visits to forty one nations.
When it comes to saints canonized by Pope Francis, there are three popes St. John XXIII, St. Paul VI and St. John Paul II; St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta; St. Oscar Romero, Archbishop; St. Jacinta and Francisco Marto of Fatima; St. Louis and Zelie Martin, parents of St. Therese of Lisieux; St. Angela of Foligno; St. Elizabeth of the Trinity.
We can find a compass for our lives in Pope Francis’s deed and word, homily, papal documents including encyclical. He always enlightens who and what should be our ultimate goal to follow. With warmhearted and loving recommendation, he teaches us how we should live with our proper vocation, as bread-earner, mother, child, student, professor, politician, environmental activist, religious, priest, or retired senior.
Today is a special opportunity to meditate on Pope Francis’ words, following his example in reality. Being encouraged by his exemplary word and deed, we can overcome the difficulties facing us and exert ourselves to build up the kingdom of God on earth.
God of love and mercy,
we thank you for sending us Pope Francis to be our supreme pastor. He manifests our love in the midst of our world where prevails competition and indifference. Grant him, we pray, wisdom and strength to build up the kingdom of God in this world. Amen.