By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp
Pope Francis prayed for government leaders, heads of state, legislators, mayors, heads of regions on Saturday morning during Mass at the Casa Santa Marta. He prayed that the “Lord might help them and grant them strength because their work is not easy. When there are differences among them”, he prayed, “may they understand that in moments of crisis they must be very united for the good of their people because unity is superior to conflict”.
The First Reading and the Gospel provided the Holy Father the theme for his homily. He reflected on the fact that the Church, as well as all of us, live both moments of peace in our lives and moments of crisis. The First Reading (9:31-42) says that the early Church was at peace. The Gospel of John presents a moment of crisis when many disciples decided to follow Jesus no longer (6:31-42).
The Church was at peace
Pope Francis began his homily citing the First Reading. “The Church…was at peace. She was being built up and walked in the fear of the Lord, and with the consolation of the Holy Spirit she grew in numbers”. This description tells us that the Church at that moment was serene, experiencing consolation, the Pope said.
Crisis is inevitable
The Pope went on saying that life is filled not only with moments of peace but also moments of crisis. Today the Gospel recounts the reaction of many of Jesus’s disciples to a teaching they found difficult to digest. Jesus had revealed that those who would eat His flesh and blood would have eternal life.
Moment of choice
Critical moments such as these are moments when we are required to make a choice, Pope Francis said. It is precisely at this moment that He requires the Twelve to choose if they too want to leave Him. This prompts Peter’s second confession of faith: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God”. “Peter does not understand” everything that Jesus is saying, the Pope continued. “But he trusts the Lord”.
How to live through crisis
Pope Francis quoted a proverb used in Argentina to explain how to live through moments of crisis in the faith. “When you go on horseback and you have to cross a river, don’t change horses in the middle of the river”. Those who decided to leave Jesus, the Pope said, changed horses midstream. Instead, moments of crisis require that we persevere, remain silent, stay grounded in our convictions. “It is not the moment to make changes”, Pope Francis continued. It is the moment to remain faithful. It is the moment when God is faithful, he said. A moment of crisis is a call to conversion in which remaining faithful “may inspire changes for the better, but not to distance ourselves from the good”.
Managing peace and crisis
“We Christians need to learn how to manage both moments of peace and moments of crisis”, Pope Francis explained. Crises in the faith have been described by spiritual writers as “going through fire in order to become strong”, he said. His prayer to the Lord was that the Lord might send His Holy Spirit so that we might know “how to resist temptations in moment of crisis, that we might know how to be faithful…with the hope” that moments of peace will follow. “May the Lord grant us the strength in moments of crisis not to sell out the faith”.