For Jesus, suffering and glory go hand in hand, Pope Francis said Friday, urging Christians not to fall into the temptation of running from the cross, but to imitate Christ in bending down to embrace the weak and vulnerable.
In his homily for the June 29 Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, the official patrons of Rome, the pope said that in Jesus, “glory and the cross go together; they are inseparable.”
“Once we turn our back on the cross, even though we may attain the heights of glory, we will be fooling ourselves, since it will not be God’s glory, but the snare of the enemy.”
He pointed to the day's Gospel reading from Matthew, in which Peter declares that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Though Jesus applauds Peter for this recognition, telling him he is the rock on which he will build the Church, a few lines later Jesus chastises Peter for swearing that he will not allow the crucifixion to happen.
By doing this, Peter “immediately becomes a stumbling stone in the Messiah’s path,” Francis said, because while he believes that he is defending Jesus, “Peter, without realizing it, becomes the Lord’s enemy; Jesus calls him 'Satan.'”
In contemplating Peter's life and his confession of faith in the day's Gospel, Catholics are also invited to reflect on the daily temptations that every disciple faces, the pope said.
“Like Peter, we as a Church will always be tempted to hear those 'whisperings' of the evil One, which will become a stumbling stone for the mission,” he said, explaining that he used the word “whisper” because “the devil seduces from hiding, lest his intentions be recognized.”
“He behaves like a hypocrite, wishing to stay hidden and not be discovered.”
Christians, he said, can often be tempted to keep a “prudent distance” from the wounds of Christ, whereas Jesus himself bends down to touch humanity's brokenness and asks Christians to join him in touching “the suffering flesh” of others.
“To proclaim our faith with our lips and our heart demands that we — like Peter — learn to recognize the 'whisperings' of the evil one,” he said. “It demands learning to discern and recognize those personal and communitarian pretexts that keep us far from real human dramas, that preserve us from contact with other people’s concrete existence and, in the end, from knowing the revolutionary power of God’s tender love.”
By choosing not to separate his glory from his death on the cross, Jesus frees both his disciples and the Church from “empty forms of triumphalism” which are void of love, service, compassion, and, ultimately, people, he said.
Jesus, Francis said, wants to free the Church from “grand illusions that fail to sink their roots in the life of God’s faithful people or, still worse, believe that service to the Lord means turning aside from the dusty roads of history.”
To contemplate and follow Christ, then, means opening one's heart to God the Father and to all those he chose to identify with, “in the sure knowledge that he will never abandon his people.”
Pope Francis closed his homily urging attendees to imitate Peter in confessing that “Jesus Christ is Lord.”
This is the daily chorus that every disciple ought to profess, he said, saying it should be done “with the simplicity, the certainty and the joy of knowing that the Church shines not with her own light, but with the light of Christ.”
“Her light is drawn from the Sun of Justice, so that she can exclaim: 'It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.'”
Pope Francis celebrated Mass in St. Peter's Square for the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, during which he gave new metropolitan archbishops appointed throughout the past year a white wool vestment called the “pallium.” Though there were 30 who will receive the pallium, only 26 made it to the Mass in Rome.
Adorned with six black silk crosses, the pallium dates back to at least the fifth century. The wearing of the pallium by metropolitan archbishops is a symbol of authority and of unity with the Holy See, and it serves as a symbol of the metropolitan archbishop’s jurisdiction in his own diocese as well as the other particular dioceses within his ecclesiastical province.
The title of “metropolitan bishop” refers to the diocesan bishop or archbishop of a metropolis, namely, the primary city of an ecclesiastical province or regional capital.
The “pallium Mass” also fell the day after Pope Francis created 14 new cardinals in a June 28 consistory, 11 of whom are of voting age.