The Good Shepherd Calls Us to ‘Open Our Hearts to Love,’ Pope Francis Says at Mass in Hungary
‘The history of salvation does not begin with us, with our merits, our abilities, and our structures. It begins with the call of God,’ the Pope said.
During an outdoor Mass in Budapest on Good Shepherd Sunday, Pope Francis called on Hungarians to be “open and inclusive,” reflecting on how Jesus wants his flock to share the abundant life they've received from him.
“Though we are diverse and come from different communities, the Lord has brought us together, so that his immense love can enfold us in one embrace,” the Pope said in his April 30 homily, speaking in bright sunshine to more than 50,000 people gathered in and around the Hungarian capital’s picturesque Kossuth Lajos Square.
“[A]ll of us are called to cultivate relationships of fraternity and cooperation, avoiding divisions,” he said, “not retreating into our own community, not concerned to stake out our individual territory, but rather opening our hearts to mutual love.”
Prior to Mass, held outside the city's majestic neo-Gothic Parliament building, the Pope was transported in his wheelchair to a specially constructed altar platform flanked by banners in the colors of the Vatican and Hungarian flags and simply adorned with a towering wooden crucifix.
Cardinal Peter Erdő, the archbishop of Budapest, was the principal celebrant of the Mass; since the Pope’s knee injury has impeded his mobility, he has called on cardinals to take his place at the altar.
In his homily, Francis zeroed in on “two specific things that, according to the Gospel, [the Good Shepherd] does for the sheep. He calls them by name, and then he leads them out.”
“The history of salvation does not begin with us, with our merits, our abilities, and our structures. It begins with the call of God,” the Pope said.
“[T]his morning, in this place, we sense the joy of our being God’s holy people. All of us were born of his call.”
Pope Francis said he spoke especially “to myself and to my brother bishops and priests: to those of us who are shepherds.” He called on the faithful to be “increasingly open doors: ‘facilitators’ — that’s the word — of God’s grace, masters of closeness; let us be ready to offer our lives, even as Christ … teaches us with open arms from the throne of the cross and shows us daily as the living Bread broken for us on the altar.”
Seeing closed doors is “sad and painful,” the Pope said. He referred specifically to the “closed doors of our selfishness with regard to others; the closed doors of our individualism amid a society of growing isolation; the closed doors of our indifference towards the underprivileged and those who suffer; the doors we close towards those who are foreign or unlike us, towards migrants or the poor."
The Pope’s plea was, “Please, let us open those doors! Let us try to be — in our words, deeds, and daily activities — like Jesus, an open door.”
As open doors, the Lord of life can enter our hearts, Pope Francis assured, with “words of consolation and healing.”
Speaking to his Hungarian hosts, he urged them to be “open and inclusive” and “in this way, help Hungary to grow in fraternity, which is the path of peace," an apparent reference to the country's contested migration policies.
While the Pope has praised the country for being a leader in assisting persecuted Christians in other countries and welcoming more than a million war refugees from neighboring Ukraine, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s curbing of migrants from the Middle East and Africa is generally seen as being at odds with the Pope’s call to openness. During the migrant crisis of 2015, Orbán sealed Hungary’s southern border with Serbia, closing off the main land route into Europe.
Pope Francis ended his homily with a reminder that Jesus “calls us by name and cares for us with infinitely tender love. He is the door, and all who enter through him have eternal life. He is our future, a future of ‘life in abundance.’
“Let us never be discouraged,” the Pope said. “Let us never be robbed of the joy and peace he has given us. Let us never withdraw into our own problems or turn away from others in apathy. May the Good Shepherd accompany us always: with him, our lives, our families, our Christian communities and all of Hungary will flourish with new and abundant life!”
In his Regina Caeli reflection after the Mass, the Pope referenced the ongoing fighting in Ukraine.
“Blessed Virgin, watch over the peoples who suffer so greatly. In a special way, watch over the neighboring, beleaguered Ukrainian people and the Russian people, both consecrated to you,” he said.
“You, who are the Queen of Peace, instill in the hearts of peoples and their leaders the desire to build peace and to give the younger generations a future of hope, not war, a future full of cradles not tombs, a world of brothers and sisters, not walls and barricades.”
Ending his three-day visit to Budapest, the Pope is scheduled to deliver a speech on culture and academics Sunday afternoon at the Péter Pázmány Catholic University. He then will have a farewell ceremony at 5:30 p.m. local time before departing on his return flight to Rome.