Pope to Bahrain clergy: Never tire of spreading God's joy
By Deborah Castellano Lubov
Preserve and deepen your Christian joy, spreading it to all around you, and remember that with God, you can face and overcome everything.
Pope Francis offered this powerful reminder when speaking to bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated persons, seminarians and lay pastoral workers, of Bahrain on Sunday in the Sacred Heart Church in Bahrain's capital of Manama.
This encounter marks the last public meeting of the Pope prior to his departure from the Middle Eastern Gulf nation, for his 39th Apostolic Journey abroad, for the Bahrain Dialogue Forum and to encourage the Muslim-majority nation's small, but fervent Catholic flock.
During his remarks, the Holy Father called for spreading Christian joy, he urged those present to let the Holy Spirit comfort and restore them and he encouraged them to be guardians of unity, who are credible and ready to engage in dialogue.
Harmony in the face of Jesus
The Pope expressed his delight to be "in the midst of this Christian community that clearly manifests its “Catholic” face," with a "universal face, a Church made up of people from various parts of the world who come together to profess our one faith in Christ."
He noted that some present were from Lebanon, and assured them, all peoples suffering in the Middle East, of his prayers and closeness to their "beloved" country, which has been "so weary and sorely tried."
Reflecting on this Sunday's liturgy, the Pope said that Jesus' words speaking of the living water flowing from Christ and His followers made the Holy Father think about their land.
Quenching our thirst for happiness
Despite there being a large expanse of desert, he observed there are springs of fresh water flowing underground that irrigate it.
"That is a beautiful image of who you are and, above all, of how faith operates in our lives," he pointed out.
Even if on the surface humanity seems "parched" by fears, problems and weaknesses, he noted, the Spirit, in the intimacy of our heart and soul, "refreshes our deserts and restores life to what is parched, who washes away all that soils us and quenches our thirst for happiness."
The Pope stressed that the Church was born "from the pierced side of Christ," from the water of rebirth in the Holy Spirit.
"We are not Christians by our own merit or simply because we profess a creed," he highlighted, "but because the living water of the Spirit was given to us in baptism, making us beloved children of God, brothers and sisters of one another and a new creation."
"Everything flows from grace; everything comes from the Holy Spirit," he said.
Three great gifts
The Pope focused on "three great gifts" that the Holy Spirit grants the faithful, and which the Spirit asks us to welcome and cultivate.
The first was the gift of joy, the Pope said, saying the Spirit is a wellspring of joy.
"The fresh water that the Lord wants to make flow in the “deserts” of our humanity, earthly and frail," Pope Francis underscored, "is the certainty that we are never alone on the journey of life."
The Spirit, the Holy Father said, does not leave us on our own.
The joy of the Spirit, however, is not an occasional feeling or a momentary emotion, but instead is "born of a relationship with God, from knowing that despite the struggles and dark nights that we sometimes endure, we are not alone, lost or defeated, because he is with us."
We can overcome everything with God
The Pope urged them to "preserve this joy," and let it grow ever greater. The best way to do this, he insisted, is to give this joy away.
"Yes, Christian joy is naturally contagious, since the Gospel makes us go beyond ourselves to share the beauty of God’s love. It is essential, therefore," he said, "that this joy not be dimmed or left unshared in Christian communities..."
In addition to the liturgy, and celebrating Mass, "the source and summit of Christian life," the Pope said, "it is important that we spread the joy of the Gospel through a lively pastoral outreach, especially to young people and families, and through fostering vocations to the priesthood and the religious life."
"We cannot keep Christian joy to ourselves," he noted, saying, "It multiplies once we start spreading it around."
God's sons and daughters
Second, the Pope continued, the Holy Spirit is a wellspring of unity.
This means, he warned, there can no longer be room for works of the flesh, acts of selfishness, such as factions, quarrels, slander and gossip.
"Worldly divisions, but also ethnic, cultural and ritual differences cannot injure or compromise the unity of the Spirit," the Pope said.
"On the contrary," he continued, "His fire burns away worldly desires and kindles in our lives the warm and compassionate love with which Jesus loves us, so that we in turn can love one another."
The Pope said the Spirit inaugurates the one language of love.
This, the Holy Father recalled, is what the Holy Spirit does, and has done since the very beginnings of the Church, starting with Pentecost.
Guardians of unity
He urged them to do so in their communities, religious houses, families, in the multi-religious and multi-cultural societies in which we find ourselves.
"I know that you are already offering a good example of walking this path," the Pope clarified, "but fraternity and communion are gifts that we must never tire of imploring from the Spirit."
He said this is necessary in order to "fend off the enemy who always sows weeds."
Our prophetic vocation
Turning to the third gift, the Pope said that the Spirit is a wellspring of prophecy, as he remembered that salvation history is full of prophets whom God calls.
The prophets, he reminded, receive an interior light from the Holy Spirit, which makes them attentive interpreters of reality, capable of perceiving God’s presence amid the frequently obscure course of history and making it known to the people, even when their words are scathing for calling out evil, pointing out falsities and calling for conversion.
As such, he said, "we cannot pretend not to see the works of evil, so as to live a “quiet life” and not get our hands dirty." Instead, we must get them dirty as we proclaim the Gospel with our living witness daily, including with meaningful gestures, like visiting prisoners.
"Caring for prisoners is good for everyone, as a human community," the Holy Father emphasized, "since the way in which these “least ones” are treated is a measure of the dignity and the hope of a society."
Steadfastness and joy
The Holy Father expressed his gratitude to those before him for these days together in Bahrain and gave his blessing.
Pope Francis concluded by invoking the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, whom, he noted, "I am happy to venerate as Our Lady of Arabia."
"May she help us always to be guided by the Holy Spirit, and keep us joyful and united in affection and love," he prayed.
Appeals for Ethiopia and Ukraine
During his Angelus address, the Pope recalled the prayers of the faithful for peace as the world undergoes war, and turned his attention specifically to Ethiopia and Ukraine.
The Holy Father also prayed for peace in Ukraine.