Christ is with us and walking beside us in our daily journey through life, including our struggles to be holy, Pope Francis said Sunday.
Emphasizing that Jesus is not just a historical figure, the pope said Aug. 27 that “we are not alone on the path of life, because Christ is with us and Christ helps us to walk, as he did with Peter and the other disciples.”
“Let us not be discouraged if at times the summit of the Christian life seems too high and the path too steep,” he said. “Let us look to Jesus — look to Jesus always — look to Jesus who walks beside us, who welcomes our frailties, shares our efforts and rests his firm and gentle arm on our weak shoulders. With him close at hand, let us also reach out to one another and renew our trust: with Jesus, what seems impossible on our own, with Jesus we can go forward.”
Pope Francis spoke about the presence of Christ during his weekly Sunday address and Angelus prayer, which he delivered from a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square to a crowd of about 10,000 people.
“Christ, brothers and sisters, is not a memory of the past,” the pope emphasized, “but the God of the present. If he were merely a historic figure, to imitate him today would be impossible: We would find ourselves faced with the great chasm of time, and above all, faced with his model, which is like a very high, un-scalable mountain; we would want to climb it, but lack the ability and the necessary means.”
“Instead, Jesus is alive. Remember this: Jesus is alive, Jesus lives in the Church, lives in the world. Jesus accompanies us, he is at our side, he offers us his Word and his grace, which enlighten and refresh us on the journey: He, an expert and wise guide, is happy to accompany us on the most difficult paths and the most inaccessible slopes,” he said.
Pope Francis reflected on the question Jesus asked his disciples in the day’s Gospel reading: “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
“In general, [people] say good things,” the pope noted. “Many see [Jesus] as a great teacher, as a special person: good, righteous, consistent, courageous... But is this enough to understand who he is, and above all, is it enough for Jesus? It seems not.”
“Indeed,” he continued, “if [Jesus] were simply a person from the past — just as the figures cited in the Gospel, John the Baptist, Moses, Elijah, and the great prophets were for the people — he would merely be a good memory of a bygone time.”
Francis said this is why Jesus immediately asks his disciples “the decisive question: ‘But who do you — you — say that I am?’”
Jesus does not want to be known as merely a historical figure, he wants to be close to us, the pope emphasized.
Christ is “not a character from the past, but the Christ, that is, the Messiah, the one awaited in the present; not a deceased hero, but the Son of the living God, made man and come to share the joys and the labors of our journey.”
Pope Francis encouraged Catholics to ask themselves: “Who is Jesus for me?”
Is he “a great figure, a point of reference, an unattainable model? Or God the Son, who walks by my side, who can lead me to the peak of holiness, that I cannot reach by myself?” he said.
The pope also said to reflect on whether Jesus is truly Lord of our lives, if we entrust ourselves to him in difficult moments, and if we cultivate his presence through reading his Word and receiving the sacraments.
He concluded by asking the intercession of the Virgin Mary to help us “to feel her Son alive and present beside us.”
After praying the Angelus, a traditional Marian prayer, Pope Francis spoke about St. Monica, whose feast day is celebrated by the Church on Aug. 27.
“Today we remember St. Monica, mother of St. Augustine. With her prayers, her tears, she asked the Lord for the conversion of her son: A strong woman, a good woman. Let us pray for the many mothers who suffer because their children are a little lost or on difficult paths in life,” he said.