By Christopher Wells
In the Mass in Santa Marta on Monday, Pope Francis prayed for families closed up in their homes because of the pandemic. He acknowledged that families are trying to do many things they have never done before. Then, he mentioned the reality of domestic violence. “Let us pray,” he said, "for families, that they might persevere in peace with creativity and patience during this quarantine".
During his homily, Pope Francis emphasized the importance of unity despite differences. It revolved around two poles: the story of the criticism of St Peter by the early Church for eating with sinners, and the message of Jesus in the Gospel, “I am the shepherd of all”.
Sources of division
In the first reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, the Christian community in Jerusalem reproached St Peter for eating with pagans. This is just one example of the many divisions that we find in the early years of the Church, the Pope said.
This spirit of division leads us to divide people between the righteous and sinners, between “us” and “them”, he continued. We often believe that we have the correct position before God. Sometimes it leads to thinking that others are condemned. In fact, in the religious atmosphere of the time, not only Peter, but even Jesus was criticised for eating with sinners.
This is a disease of the Church born of ideologies, Pope Francis said. He warned that our commitment to an ideological position can become more important than listening to the Holy Spirit Who guides us. This can lead to divisions.
Jesus died for everyone
Pope Francis then quoted a Cardinal emeritus who lives in the Vatican. That Cardinal said that the Church is like a river. Some members are closer to one bank or the other. But everyone is in the same river. “No one outside, everyone inside,” the Pope said. “The Lord wants it this way”.
Turning to the Gospel, the Pope emphasized the words of Jesus, “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd” (Jn 10:16). The reality that “everyone in Jesus is important”, the Pope said. Jesus “died for everyone”, he insisted. He died not only for the good and the just, but even for those who make our lives difficult, for the thief, even for those who don’t believe in Him. “He died for everyone”.
That there might be one Shepherd
Pope Francis invited us to pray for the unity of all men and all women, that there might be one sole Shepherd, one sole Pastor. "May the Lord free us from that psychology of division. May He help see this aspect, this great reality about Jesus: that in Him we are all brothers and sisters and He is the Shepherd of all," he said. "The word for today is: 'Everyone, everyone!' "