By Vatican News
The encounter began with a series of testimonies that expressed, what the Pope himself described as: “the difficult times and serious challenges that you faced, conscious of your own limitations and weaknesses, yet marvelling at God’s mercy”.
Setting hearts on fire
Pope Francis began by reminding his listeners that “whether we like it or not, we are called to face reality as it is”. Times change, he said, “and we need to realize that often we do not know how to find our place in new scenarios”. Instead of proclaiming the Good News, the Pope continued, “we announce a dreary message that attracts no one and sets no one’s heart on fire”.
Finding identity in change
At the start of the event, the Pope was asked for advice on how to deal with the crisis of priestly identity. He responded by showing how Saint Luke “draws a parallel between events in the lives of Saint John the Baptist and Jesus Christ”. The announcement of John’s birth happens in the city of Jerusalem, inside the Holy of Holies in the Temple. Jesus’ birth is announced in a humble house, in a remote little town called Nazareth. Everything has changed, said Pope Francis, “and, in this change, we find our deepest identity”.
Coping with an identity crisis
“In a crisis of priestly identity”, he continued, “sometimes we need to step away from important and solemn places, and return to the places from which we were called, where it was clear that the initiative and the power was from God”.
Returning to Nazareth, suggested Pope Francis, “can be the way of facing a crisis of identity and being renewed as shepherds, disciples, and missionaries”. The image of Mary, “that simple young woman in her home, as opposed to all the activities of the Temple and the city of Jerusalem, can be a mirror in which we see the complications and concerns that dim and dissipate the generosity of our ‘yes’”, he said.
Renewing our vocation
Admitting that the responsibilities and emotions associated with the priesthood “can exhaust the heart of a pastor”, Pope Francis went on to say that “renewing our vocation often entails discerning if our weariness and worries are the result of a certain spiritual worldliness”. Renewing our call, he said, “has to do with choosing to say ‘yes’, and to let our weariness come from things that bear fruit in God’s eyes”.
Between Nazareth and Jerusalem
Pope Francis continued his “study of contrasts” by highlighting the encounter between the two women, Elizabeth and Mary. “The distance between Nazareth and Jerusalem is shortened and disappears with that ‘yes’ spoken by Mary”, he said.
Referring to Mozambique’s 17-year long conflict, the Pope suggested that many of those present would remember “how division and conflict ended in war” and he urged them to be “always ready to ‘visit’ even short distances”.
The challenges of inculturation
“Inculturation”, said the Pope, “will always be a challenge, shuttling back and forth, as it were, between those two women who were both changed by encounter, dialogue and service”. The ultimate aim, added the Pope, “should be that the Gospel, as preached in categories proper to each culture, will create a new synthesis with that particular culture”.
This takes both creativity and courage, he said. But the alternative is of becoming “mere onlookers as the Church gradually stagnates”.
A Church of the Visitation
“Just as Mary journeyed to the house of Elizabeth”, said Pope Francis, “we too, as a Church, have to find the road to take in the face of new problems, taking care not to remain paralyzed by the mindset of opposition, division and condemnation”.
The Church in Mozambique needs to be a “Church of the Visitation”, concluded the Pope, “a door to solution, a space where respect, interchange and dialogue are possible”.