On Sunday Pope Francis paid a visit to a parish on the southern outskirts of Rome, where he told parishioners that in order to be a good Christian they must always be attached to Jesus, who gives life. “To remain in Jesus, and this is the hardest of all, means to do what Jesus did. To have the same attitude as Jesus,” the Pope told parishioners at Mary Queen of Peace in Ostia Lido, in the south of the diocese of Rome, May 3. “When we expel others, for example, when we gossip, we don’t remain in Jesus. Jesus never did this. When we are liars, we don’t remain in Jesus. He never did it. When we cheat others with these dirty affairs, which are the work of everyone, we find ourselves dead. We don’t remain in Jesus,” he said. To remain in Jesus, Francis explained, means “to do the same that he did. To do good, to help others, to pray to the Father, to care for the sick, to help the poor, the have the joy of the Holy Spirit.” “A good question for us Christians to ask ourselves is this: do I remain in Jesus? Or am I far away from Jesus? Am I close to the vine that gives me life? Or am I dead?” The Pope arrived to Mary Queen of Peace at 4 p.m., where he met with groups of the parish, including the elderly and sick, children and youth, and spouses who have had children baptized during the year. After meeting with the various groups, Francis heard the confession of some of the parishioners before celebrating Mass at 6 p.m. In his homily he drew inspiration from the day’s Gospel reading from John chapter 15, in which Jesus tells his disciples the parable of the vines and the branches. The main message Jesus is giving his disciples in the parable is something he repeated to them often, above all in the Last Supper: “remain in me.” “And the Christian life is this remaining in Jesus. This is the Christian life. To remain in Jesus. And Jesus, to explain well what he wanted to say, uses this beautiful image of the vine,” he said. Each branch that detaches itself from the vine or is not united to it can’t bear fruit, and is tossed outside into the fire, Francis noted. It takes a lot of branches to make this fire, he said, so the ones that get tossed “are very, very useful, but not to bear fruit.” While we are all sinners, we are able to bear fruit to the extent that we are united to Jesus like the branches are to the vine, the Pope said, explaining that the Lord also has to prune us so that we can give more. “If we detach ourselves from him, if we don’t remain in him, we are Christians in word only, but not in life. We are dead Christians, because we don’t give fruit like the branches attached to the vine,” Francis cautioned. He also warned against “other branches” which Jesus refers to in another passage, saying that they are the “hypocrites” who pretend to be a disciple of Jesus, but who “do the opposite.” These people might even go to Mass every Sunday, but they live “like pagans,” he said, and explained that remaining in Jesus means to have the desire to receive both forgiveness and pruning from him. Pope Francis also pointed to the sacraments as a key means of strengthening our union with Jesus, who always invites to remain in him and forgives us when we sin “because he is merciful.” What Jesus wants from us are these two things, he said: “that we remain in him, and that we are not hypocrites. And with this the Christian life goes forward.” In turn, Jesus promises to give us whatever we ask for, Francis said, indicating how Jesus tells his disciples in the passage that “if you remain in me, and my words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done.” “What a strength in prayer! Ask whatever you want…this is the omnipotent prayer.” This omnipotence of prayer comes from remaining in Jesus and from being united to him as the branches to the vine, he concluded, and prayed that all would have the grace to remain in Christ.
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