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Pope to Priests and Religious: Rise Above Mediocrity (114)

“Finding their happiness in the Lord, they are not content with a life of mediocrity, but burn with the desire to bear witness and reach out to others,” he said at Mass in Krakow on July 30. “Rather than just getting by, they rejoice to evangelize.”

07/30/2016 Comment
L'Osservatore Romano/CNA

Pope Francis celebrates Mass for priests, deacons, men and women religious, and seminarians at the St. John Paul II shrine in Krakow, Poland, on July 30.

– L'Osservatore Romano/CNA

KRAKOW, Poland — Pope Francis told priests, religious and seminarians at Mass that true disciples are not content with mediocrity, but rather they rejoice in the mission of evangelization.

“The life of Jesus’ closest disciples, which is what we are called to be, is shaped by concrete love, a love, in other words, marked by service and availability,” the Pope told the congregation during Saturday’s Mass at the shrine of St. John Paul II in Krakow,.

“Finding their happiness in the Lord, they are not content with a life of mediocrity, but burn with the desire to bear witness and reach out to others,” he said. “Rather than just getting by, they rejoice to evangelize.”

The Holy Father also reminded the Polish priests and religious men and women present to remember their own call to become Jesus’ disciples, turning to the Gospel which, he said, is an “open book” in which we are to continue writing with our own works of mercy.

“It is the story of our own calling, the voice of the love that attracted us and transformed our life, leading us to leave everything at his word and to follow him,” he said.

The July 30 Mass at the Sanctuary of St. John Paul II in Krakow was attended by some 2,000 bishops, priests, religious men and women, and seminarians within the shrine itself, with an additional 5,000 taking part from outside.

Before Mass, the Pope heard the confessions of eight young people, including a priest, from various countries.

Earlier, he passed through the Jubilee of Mercy Holy Door of the St. John Paul II sanctuary.

Saturday’s celebration, which started a bit ahead of schedule, marks the beginning of the Holy Father’s second-to-last day in Poland, where he is leading World Youth Day celebrations in Krakow.

Pope Francis centered his homily for the Mass on the day’s Gospel reading, in which Jesus appears to his disciples after Easter and sends them out into the world on mission.

“Jesus sends,” the Pope said. “From the beginning, he wants his to be a Church on the move, a Church that goes out into the world.”

Francis noted how, when Jesus arrived in the scene, the disciples had “closed the doors out of fear.”

Instead, “he wants them to open the doors and go out to spread God’s pardon and peace, with the power of the Holy Spirit,” the Pope said.

This call to go out on mission is also addressed to us, Pope Francis told those present.

“How can we fail to hear its echo in the great appeal of St. John Paul II: ‘Open the doors’?” He spoke of the temptation of priests and consecrated person to remain closed off, either out of fear or convenience.

“But Jesus directs us to a one-way street: that of going forth from ourselves,” he said. “It is a one-way trip, with no return ticket. It involves making an exodus from ourselves, losing our lives for his sake.”

“In other words, the life of Jesus’ closest disciples, which is what we are called to be, is shaped by concrete love, a love, in other words, marked by service and availability.”

Addressing the congregation, Francis explained how those “who choose to model their entire life on Jesus” relinquish the right to choose where they are sent, and even their houses do not belong to them.

This is “because the Church and the world are the open spaces of their mission, he said.

They do not build their lives on “shaky foundations of worldly power,” nor do they compromise evangelization for comforts, the Holy Father said. They do not “waste time planning a secure future, lest they risk becoming isolated and gloomy, enclosed within the narrow walls of a joyless and desperate self-centeredness.”

“Finding their happiness in the Lord, they are not content with a life of mediocrity, but burn with the desire to bear witness and reach out to others,” he explained. “Rather than just getting by, they rejoice to evangelize.”

Pope Francis turned his reflection to the scene in the day’s Gospel which recounts St. Thomas, who had previously doubted the resurrection, encountering the risen Christ.

The hesitant and somewhat stubborn St. Thomas “is a bit like us,” the Pope said, and therefore “we find him likeable.”

“Without knowing it, he gives us a great gift: he brings us closer to God, because God does not hide from those who seek him.”

The Pope stressed to the congregation of priests and religious the importance of putting “our humanity in contact with the flesh of the Lord,” like Thomas who touched the wounds of Jesus.

“That is the way to seek God: through prayer that is transparent and unafraid to hand over to him our troubles, our struggles and our resistance,” he said.

“Jesus’ heart is won over by sincere openness, by hearts capable of acknowledging and grieving over their weakness, yet trusting that precisely there God’s mercy will be active.”

Pope Francis explained how Jesus wants hearts that are “truly consecrated,” which are “open and tender towards the weak,” and which “do not dissimulate before those whom the Church appoints as our guides.”

He added that disciples are not afraid of asking questions, but rather “have the courage to face their misgivings and bring them to the Lord, to their formators and superiors, without calculations or reticence.”

Recalling the words of St. Thomas when he came to believe in Jesus’ resurrection — “My Lord and my God” — Francis encouraged the daily recitation of this acclamation, saying to the Lord: “You are my one treasure, the path I must follow, the core of my life, my all.”

In the Gospel, it is said that all of the signs that Jesus performed have not been written down, the Pope observed. Although one could say no other signs are needed beyond the “great sign of his mercy,” he said there is still room for signs “needing to be worked by us, who have received the Spirit of love and are called to spread mercy.”

“It might be said that the Gospel, the living book of God’s mercy that must be continually read and reread, still has many blank pages left,” the Holy Father said. “It remains an open book that we are called to write in the same style, by the works of mercy we practice.”

Pope Francis turned his reflection to Mary, and asked for her intercession that we might be given “the grace to be living writers of the Gospel,” taking “concrete care of the wounds of Jesus” and those in need, including the sick and migrants.

“May the Virgin Mary help us to spend ourselves completely for the good of the faithful entrusted to us, and to show concern for one another as true brothers and sisters in the communion of the Church, our holy Mother.”

Concluding his homily to the priests and religious men and women in the congregation, the Pope reminded them of the “very personal page of the book of God’s mercy” held in each of their hearts.

“It is the story of our own calling, the voice of the love that attracted us and transformed our life, leading us to leave everything at his word and to follow him,” he said.

“Today let us gratefully rekindle the memory of his call, which is stronger than any resistance and weariness on our part.”

Filed under ann schneible, krakow, poland, pope francis, priesthood, st. john paul ii, world youth day krakow