ROME — Pope Francis delved deeply into the readings for the Third Sunday of Easter, highlighting proclamation, witness and worship as essential to the faith, while also recognizing those who suffer for Christ in the world today.
Reflecting on the first reading, Pope Francis said, “What strikes us is the strength of Peter and the apostles.” He delivered his April 14 homily during Mass at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls.
He highlighted the fact that, although they were ordered to be silent and not teach about the risen Lord, the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than men.”
Even in the face of violence and imprisonment, they “proclaim courageously, fearlessly” the Gospel of Jesus.
“And we? Are we capable of bringing the word of God into the environment in which we live?” Pope Francis asked.
He explained, “Faith is born from listening and is strengthened by proclamation.”
The Pope likened the testimony of faith to a “great fresco” that is made up of “a variety of colors and shades,” all of which are “important, even those which do not stand out.”
“In God’s great plan, every detail is important, even yours, even my humble little witness, even the hidden witness of those who live their faith with simplicity in everyday family relationships, work relationships, friendships.”
He said that while the world is filled with “hidden” saints in the “middle-class of holiness,” to which “we can all belong,” many Christians throughout the world are suffering like Peter and the apostles.
Whichever way we are called to follow Christ, the Holy Father taught, we must remember “one cannot proclaim the Gospel of Jesus without the tangible witness of one’s life.”
Indeed, “proclamation and witness” are only possible if we recognize Christ, since he is the one who chose us and is calling us out, he said.
As Christians, we must live out an intimate and “intense relationship with Jesus” that comes from recognizing and worshipping Jesus as “the Lord.”
Pope Francis then challenged Christians to examine whether or not they worship the Lord.
“Do we turn to God only to ask him for things, to thank him?” Or, rather, do we “also turn to him to worship him?”
Worshipping God, he explained, “means learning to be with him” and not simply “trying to dialogue with him.” It is “sensing that his presence is the most true, the most good, the most important thing of all.”
In all of our lives, Pope Francis said, we either consciously or unconsciously “have a very clear order of priority concerning the things we consider important.”
“Worshipping the Lord,” he stated, “means giving him the place that he must have.”
Rather than clinging to the “many small or great idols” in our lives, “on which we often seek to base our security,” Christians must strip ourselves of idols, “even the most hidden ones,” and choose God as the “center” or the “highway of our lives,” the Pope said.
The Holy Father finished his homily by asking for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Paul to “help us on this journey.”