By Vatican News staff writer
Pope Francis has penned some words of introduction to a book written by Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, the Preacher of the Papal Household.
The new book titled “Francesco il guillare di Dio" (loosely translated as “Francis, God’s jester”) tells the story of Brother Pacificus, a storyteller, who was a follower of St. Francis of Assisi. The book is published by the Edizioni Francescane Italiane.
Addressed to young people
The Holy Father highlights that the book is written for young, searching people “as a gift” filled with the “esteem and trust” that he places in all young people.
Pope Francis notes that many, perhaps, have read and questioned Jesus’ words in the Gospels: "Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you. For whoever asks receives, and whoever seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened" (Mt 7:7-8).
“These are powerful words, full of a great and demanding promise,” the Pope affirms. “But, we might ask ourselves: are they to be taken seriously? If I ask the Lord, will He really listen to my request? If I seek him, will I find Him? If I knock, will He open the door to me? …Doesn’t experience sometimes seem to belie this promise? …Can these words be trusted or not? …Won’t they, too, like so many others I hear around me, be a source of illusions and therefore of disappointment?”
These questions call to mind another passage of scripture which illuminate them in all their depth, the Pope said: “You will seek me and you will find me, for you will seek me with all your heart; I will let myself be found by you". (Jer 29:13-14).
Likewise, “God allows Himself be found, yes, but only by those who seek Him with all their heart,” Pope Francis writes.
The Lord answers if we seek Him
Pope Francis goes on to illustrate examples of promises fulfilled when Jesus encountered people. He says that the Lord allowed Himself to be found by the insistence of the importunate widow, by Nichodemus’ thirst for truth, by the faith of the centurion, by the cry of the widow of Nain, by the leper’s desire for health and by Bartimaeus’ longing for sight.
These people, the Pope notes, “are the ones for whom finding an answer had become an essential matter…any one of them could have rightfully uttered the words of Psalm 63: "My soul thirsts for you [Lord], my flesh longs for you, like a barren land without water".
In the same way, “the one who seeks finds if they seek with all their heart, if the Lord becomes as vital for them as water for the desert, as the earth for a seed, as the sun for a flower.”
This also is respectful of our freedom, as faith is not given automatically, indifferent of our participation, but rather "it asks you to involve yourself in the first person and with your whole self. It is a gift that wants to be wanted. It is, in essence, Love that wants to be loved.”
God is thirsty for us
“Perhaps you have been looking for the Lord and have not found Him. Allow me to ask you a question: How strong was your desire for Him?” The Pope inquires.
“Seek Him with all the impetus of your heart, pray, ask, invoke, cry out, and He, as He has promised, will be found,” the Pope urges. Because “the Lord desires that you seek Him so that He can find you.”
Recalling the words of St. Gregory of Naziansus “Deus sitit sitiri”, Pope Francis further explains that “God is thirsty for us to thirst for Him” so that by finding us willing, he might meet us.
Responding to God’s call
“What if He knocks on your door today?” the Pope asks: “When the Lord calls us to Himself, He does not want compromise or hesitation on our part, but a radical response.”
Illustrating the importance of responding to God’s call, Pope Francis recounts the story of a renowned “King of verse” who met St. Francis one day in the monastery of Colpersito in San Severino Marche. In a similar manner as St. Paul, struck by light on his way to Damascus, this “king of verse” was struck by the holiness of St. Francis and immediately lost all his hesitation.
In that moment, “a new man was born,” the Pope explains.” He was no longer William of Lisciano, the king of verse, but Brother Pacificus, a man inhabited by a new peace previously unknown. From that day, he became all for God, consecrated entirely to Him, one of Saint Francis' closest companions, a witness to the beauty of faith.”
God has not stopped calling
Further inviting young people to read the book, Pope Francis reminds them that “God has not stopped calling,” and he does not tire of coming to meet us “as the shepherd seeks the lost sheep, as the woman of the house seeks the lost coin, as the father seeks his children.”
“If you only lower the volume on other things and raise the volume of your greatest desires, you will hear it loud and clear within you and around you,” Pope Francis notes.
God continues to call and patiently awaits from us the same response that Our Lady gave: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word" (Lk 1:38).
“If you have the courage to leave your securities and open yourself to Him," Pope Francis concludes, "a new world will open up for you; and you, in turn, will become a light for others.”