By Devin Watkins
Pope Francis prayed the traditional Marian prayer of the Angelus on Sunday, and reflected on Jesus’ invitation for Christians to follow Him in the midst of sacrifice and trials.
In the day’s Gospel (Mt 10, 37-42), Jesus clearly lays out the demands involved in being His disciple.
Love for Jesus leads to love for family
“The first demanding request that He addresses to those who follow Him,” said Pope Francis, “is that of putting love for Him above family affection.”
The Pope added that Jesus is not seeking to undervalue love for parents and children.
Rather, he said, Jesus “knows that family bonds, if put in first place, can deviate from the true good.”
We all experience this, said the Pope, for example when family affections lead us to make choices that are contrary to the Gospel.
“When, instead, love toward parents and children is inspired and purified by love for the Lord,” he said, “it then becomes totally fruitful and produces fruit for the good of the family itself as well as beyond it.”
He said that truly loving Jesus requires us to truly love our parents and children. However, if we put family interests first, “this always carries us along the wrong path.”
Carrying our cross
Pope Francis went on to reflect on Jesus’ invitation to take up our own cross and follow Him.
The Pope said it is the very path that Jesus Himself trod, and recalled that there are no shortcuts along it.
“There is no true love without the cross, that is, without a personal price to pay,” he said.
However, we should remember that we never carry our cross alone, since Jesus is always there to support us in our trials, “to give us strength and courage.”
“Nor is it necessary,” said the Pope, “to get agitated to preserve one’s own life through fearful or egotistical behavior.”
Fullness found in self-sacrifice
Jesus, he said, then proposes the Gospel paradox: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Pope Francis said history has provided us with many examples that Jesus’ words are true.
“There are so many people in these days who carry crosses to help others,” he said. “They sacrifice themselves to help others who are in need during this pandemic. With Jesus, we can do anything.”
“The fullness of life and joy is found by giving oneself for the Gospel and for others, through openness, welcoming and goodness.”
With gratitude and generosity
Giving our lives in order to help others, by giving them a drink of cold water, for example, he said, leads us to experience God’s generosity and gratitude.
The Pope then recounted a story he recently heard from a priest who was moved by the generosity of a child. The child approached him and said, "Father this is my savings. It's just a little. It's for those who are in need today because of the pandemic." Pope Francis then concluded, "It's something small, but something big."
“It is a contagious gratitude that helps every one of us to be grateful toward those who take care of our needs,” he said.
Gratitude, said the Pope, is both a sign of good manners and a key characteristic of a Christian.
“It is a simple but genuine sign of the kingdom of God,” he said, “which is the kingdom of gratuitous and grateful love.”
Following Our Lady’s example
Pope Francis concluded asking the Blessed Virgin Mary to help us as we carry our crosses in Jesus’ footsteps.
May she “help us to always put ourselves before God with willing hearts, allowing His Word to judge our behavior and our choices.”