Pope Francis celebrated Mass in Florence this week, saying that joy comes from discerning the real Jesus from the image offered by distorted philosophies of God, popular only for a short time. “Our joy is to go against the tide and overcome the popular opinion, which, then as now, cannot see in Jesus more than a prophet or a teacher,” the Pope said Nov. 10. He said Christian joy comes from sharing the faith and responding together to what Jesus asks of us, and recognizing in Jesus “the presence of God, sent by the Father, the Son come to make himself and instrument of salvation for humanity.” Francis celebrated Mass in the Artemio Franchi municipal stadium of Florence during his Nov. 10 daytrip to the city, and to the neighboring town of Prato. Earlier in the day the Pope met with participants in the Fifth National Ecclesial Convention of the Italian Church in Florence’s Santa Maria Del Fiore cathedral. Afterward he went to the Santissima Annunziata Basilica, where he prayed the Angelus with sick and disabled persons. He greeted them each individually after the prayer, before going on foot to the nearby Poor St. Francis cafeteria, where he ate lunch before heading to stadium for Mass. In his homily, Francis focused on the day’s Gospel passage from Matthew in which Jesus asks his disciples who the people say that he is, as well as how they would respond to the question. Jesus’ initial question of “who do they say that the Son of Man is” demonstrates the how open his heart is to others, the Pope said, explaining that what interests Jesus is not so much hearing the answer, as using it to communicate with the people. “Without knowing what the people think, the disciple is isolated and begins to judge the people according to their own thoughts and convictions,” he said. Therefore, “a disciple must maintain a healthy contact with reality and with people’s lives with their joys and sorrows.” Pope Francis said that it’s also important for the disciples to remember that they were all chosen from among the people, and cautioned that they must never fall into the temptation of believing that what the people think and live doesn't concern them and is isn’t important for them. “This also goes for us,” he said, adding that like Jesus, the Church “lives in the middle of the people and for the people. Because of this the Church, in her entire history, has always brought the same question: who is Jesus for the men and women of today?” Francis stressed the importance of getting to know Jesus “for what he really is, not a distorted image from the philosophies and ideologies of the time.” However, in order to do this one’s personal faith in Jesus has to mature, he said. He pointed to the Pope Saint Leo the Great, whose liturgical feast was celebrated yesterday, as an example of someone who was able to recognize the true Jesus amid the falsities of his time. Turning to the second question Jesus poses to his disciples, “who do you say that I am?” the Pope said it’s a question that still resonates today, and is decisive for the identity and mission of a disciple. “Only if we recognize Jesus in his truth will we be able to look at the truth of our own human condition, and we will be able contribute to the full humanization of society.” Peter’s response to Jesus that “you are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” sums up the entirety of his own mission, as well as what will become the Church’s Petrine ministry, namely, the papacy, Francis continued. He said that the mission of the Petrine ministry is to guard and proclaim the truth of the faith, as well as to defend it and promote communion among all churches. Francis said that at the root of the mystery of salvation is the will of a merciful God who didn’t want to give up in the face of misunderstanding and misery, but instead chose to become man in order to encounter each person in their concrete condition. God wanted the “supreme revelation” of the Father to be found in the humiliating image of the crucifixion, the Pope observed. The cross, he said, is a truth “that scandalizes, because it asks us to believe in Jesus, who, though being God, is emptied, is lowered to the condition of a servant, until death on the Cross.” “It's a truth that still scandalizes today those who don't tolerate the mystery of God imprinted on the face of Christ,” he said, adding that “only from the heart of Jesus can we understand, profess and live his truth.” Pope Francis explained that the good we sow along our path as Christians will help to create “a new and renewed humanity” where no one is marginalized or discarded, where the person who serves is considered the greatest and where children and the poor are both welcomed and helped. He closed his homily by quoting St. Leo the Great, who taught that “there can be no true wisdom if not in adherence to Christ and in service to the Church.” “This is the path on which we meet humanity and we can meet it with the spirit of the Good Samaritan,” he said, and noted the importance of humanism at the most creative points in Florence’s history. He said that this humanism “has always had the face of charity,” and prayed for a new humanity both for the city and Italy as a whole.
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