VATICAN CITY — In his daily homily on Oct. 31, Pope Francis spoke of the necessity of God’s love in order to be faithful, and he encouraged those present to make love the center of their lives.
“Without the love of Christ, without living this love, without recognizing it, without nurturing this love, you cannot be Christian,” Pope Francis said during his homily.
The Pope celebrated his Mass in the St. Sebastian Chapel near the tomb of Blessed John Paul II inside St. Peter’s Basilica, where a group of Polish faithful gather to celebrate the Eucharist every Thursday.
St. Paul’s words to the Romans from the day’s first reading, when he tells them that “no one can separate me from the love of Christ,” formed the basis for the Pope’s reflections.
The Holy Father said that Paul, having lived through many difficulties, including persecution, illness and betrayal, had at the center of his life a specific reference: “the love of Christ.” He said that the faithful must recognize and allow that love to grow in them, or else they cannot be true Christians.
“The Christian is one who feels loved by the Lord,” he said, “with that beautiful gaze; loved by the Lord and loved until the end. The Christian feels that his life has been saved by the blood of Christ.”
He added, “And this is what love is: a relationship of love.”
Pope Francis went on to contrast this attitude with the image of the “sorrow Jesus felt when he looks to Jerusalem,” a city which did not understand his love, which is like that of a mother hen who wants to gather her chicks under her wings.
“It didn't understand the tenderness of God,” the Holy Father said, explaining that this is the opposite of how Paul felt when faced with the love of God. This attitude says, “Yes, God loves me, God loves us, but in an abstract way; it is something that does not touch my heart, and I organize life the way I want. There is no fidelity there.”
The cry in Jesus’ heart, said the Pope, was: “Jerusalem, you are not faithful, you have not allowed yourself to love, and you have entrusted yourself to many idols that promised you everything, they said that they'd give you everything, and after they have abandoned you."
At the heart of the suffering love of Jesus, Pope Francis said, was “a love that was not accepted, was not received.”
Christians, said the Pope, have before them the image of St. Paul, who remains faithful to the love of Christ until the end, and who, even when faced with his weakness and sinfulness, “has strength in the love of God, in that meeting he had with Jesus Christ.”
On the other hand, said the Holy Father, is the image of Jerusalem, which is unfaithful and which “does not accept the love of Jesus, or even worse, eh? But this love that lives in half: a bit Yes, a little No, according to their convenience.”
In the face of these two images, “What can we do?” the Pope said. He challenged those present to ask themselves, “Am I more like Paul or Jerusalem? Is my love for God as strong as that of Paul, or is my heart tepid, like that of Jerusalem?”
“May the love, through the intercession of Blessed John Paul II, help us to answer this question,” he said. “So be it!”