Pope Francis said Sunday it is our Christian duty to help people know Jesus, which we cannot do without giving of our lives in service and love.
“Many people, often without saying so, implicitly would like to ‘see Jesus,’ to meet him, to know him. This is how we understand the great responsibility we Christians and our communities have,” the pope said March 21.
In his weekly Angelus address, he said, “we too must respond with the witness of a life that is given in service, of a life that takes upon itself the style of God -- closeness, compassion, and tenderness -- and gives itself in service.”
Francis gave his Angelus address via livestream from inside his study in the apostolic palace, after Italy increased coronavirus restrictions around the country last week.
He explained that to give one’s life in service means “sowing seeds of love, not with fleeting words but through concrete, simple and courageous examples, not with theoretical condemnations, but with gestures of love.”
Pope Francis reflected on an episode in the day’s Gospel from St. John, when Jesus is close to suffering his passion, and some Greeks, curious about what he has been doing, approach the apostle Philip and ask to see Jesus.
Jesus’ response to this request “makes us think,” the pope said. “He says: ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified... Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.’”
In his answer, “Jesus reveals that for every man and woman who wants to find him, He is the hidden seed ready to die in order to bear much fruit,” Francis stated.
“Then the Lord, with his grace, makes us bear fruit, even when the soil is dry due to misunderstandings, difficulty or persecution, or claims of legalism or clerical moralism. This is barren soil,” he continued. “Precisely then, in trials and in solitude while the seed is dying, that is the moment in which life blossoms, to bear ripe fruit in due time.”
“It is in this intertwining of death and life that we can experience the joy and true fruitfulness of love…” he added.
Pope Francis explained that it is as if Jesus is saying: “if you wish to know me and understand me, look at the grain of wheat that dies in soil, look at the cross.”
The cross, he said, is the symbol par excellence of Christians. Even in countries where Christianity is a minority, the sign of Christians is the crucifix, the cross: “In churches, in the homes of Christians, even worn on their persons.”
“The important thing is that the sign be consistent with the Gospel: the cross cannot but express love, service, unreserved self-giving,” he said.
After praying the Angelus, the pope recalled Italy’s commemoration of the “Day of remembrance and commitment in memory of the innocent victims of the mafia.”
“The mafia are present in various parts of the world and, exploiting the pandemic, they are enriching themselves through corruption,” he noted.
“St. John Paul II denounced their ‘culture of death,’ and Benedict XVI condemned them as ‘ways of death,’” he said. “These structures of sin, mafia structures, contrary to Christ’s Gospel, exchange faith with idolatry.”
“Today let us remember all the victims and let us renew our commitment against the mafia,” Francis urged.
He also pointed to the March 22 celebration of “World Water Day,” which he said “invites us to reflect on the value of this wonderful and irreplaceable gift of God.”
“Too many brothers and sisters, so very many brothers and sisters have access to too little and perhaps polluted water,” he said. “It is necessary to assure potable water and hygienic services to all. I thank and encourage those who, with diverse professionalism and responsibilities, work for this very important aim.”