Pope at Mass in South Sudan: Jesus knows and loves you

With the reassurance that Jesus knows and loves each of us personally, Pope Francis calls on the faithful of South Sudan to be "the salt of the earth" and "the light of the world" during his Mass for vast crowds in Juba.

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

"Jesus knows your anguish and the hope you bear in your hearts, the joys and struggles that mark your lives, the darkness that assails you and the faith that, like a song in the night, you raise to heaven.  Jesus knows you and loves you.  If we remain in him, we must never fear, because for us too, every cross will turn into a resurrection, every sadness into hope, and every lament into dancing."

Pope Francis offered these comforting words during his Mass for South Sudan's faithful in the nation's capital of Juba on Sunday morning, his final day in the country, and of his Apostolic Journey.

Listen to our report:

Addressing the vast crowds enthusiastically gathered in the "John Garang” Mausoleum, the Holy Father's homily began by expressing his joy to be in South Sudan, and his desire to bring to the country's faithful Jesus' hope and closeness.

Here to proclaim Jesus  

The Pope began by saying he wished to make his own the words that the Apostle Paul addressed to the community of Corinth in the Second Reading, “When I came to you, brethren, I did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God in lofty words or wisdom.  For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor 2:1-2). 

The Holy Father said St. Paul’s concern was also his, "as I gather here with you in the name of Jesus Christ, the God of love, the God who achieved peace through His Cross; Jesus, the God crucified for us all; Jesus, crucified in those who suffer; Jesus, crucified in the lives of so many of you, in so many people in this country; Jesus, the Risen Lord, the victor over evil and death."

“I have come here to proclaim Jesus and to confirm you in Him, for the message of Christ is a message of hope.”

He reminded them that Jesus knows their pain and their hopes, and knows and loves them each personally.

With the Lord, the Pope urged them to never be afraid, because He will always be at their side.

The Pope reflected on the Lord's words in today's Gospel according to St. Matthew: “You are the salt of the earth...  You are the light of the world,” and asked what these images say to them, as disciples of Jesus.

You are the salt of the earth

Looking at us being the "salt of the earth," the Holy Father said that salt seasons food, and "is the unseen ingredient that gives flavour to everything," and, without which, everything becomes insipid and tasteless.    

Recalling when Jesus uses the image of salt immediately after teaching His disciples the Beatitudes, the Pope said, "We see the Beatitudes are the salt of Christian life because they bring the wisdom of heaven down to earth." 

“Let us remember this: if we put the Beatitudes into practice, if we embody the wisdom of Jesus, we will give savour not only to our own lives, but also to the life of society and of the country in which we live.”

He pointed out that salt also was essential for preserving food, so it wouldn't spoil.

The Bible, the Pope recalled, said that there is one “food" that is to be preserved above all others, "and that is the covenant with God."  

Preserving our relationship with God

The Pope said salt reminds us of our basic need to preserve our relationship with God, because He is faithful to us, and His covenant with us is "incorruptible, inviolable and enduring."  

“As the salt of the earth, we are called to bear witness to the covenant with God with joy and gratitude...”

Building good human relationships, the Pope suggested, is key to "curbing the corruption of evil, the disease of division, the filth of fraudulent business dealings and the plague of injustice."

"Today, I would like to thank you, because you are the salt of the earth in this country," he said, and he warned against feeling small and powerless, at times, "when violence increases the venom of hatred," and "injustice causes misery and poverty."

Let's start with the little things

"Even though we are tiny and frail, even when our strength seems paltry before the magnitude of our problems and the blind fury of violence," the Pope said to the South Sudanese faithful, "we Christians are able to make a decisive contribution to changing history. "

Jesus, he insisted, wants us to be like salt, because without "that little pinch," "without our small contribution, everything becomes insipid."  

"Let us start from the little things, the essential things," he said, not from what may appear in the history books, but from what changes history. 

“In the name of Jesus and of his Beatitudes, let us lay down the weapons of hatred and revenge, in order to take up those of prayer and charity.”

The Pope called on them to overcome the dislikes and aversions that over time "have become chronic" and "risk pitting tribes and ethnic groups against one another."

"Let us learn to apply the salt of forgiveness to our wounds; salt burns but it also heals," he said, insisting that they refuse to repay evil with evil, even when hearts may be bleeding.

You are the light of the world

The Pope then turned to the second image used by Jesus, light, when he said, "You are the light of the world. " 

God sent His Son, the Pope said, "the true light that enlightens every person and every people," Who told His disciples that they, too, are the light of the world.  

“This means that, when we receive the light of Christ, the light that is Christ, we become “luminous”; we radiate the light of God!”

Pope Francis recalled when Jesus said: “A city built on a hill cannot be hid.  No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house." 

Shine forth like a city set on a hill

When Jesus asks us to be the light of the world, the Pope said, he means that "we, who are His disciples, are called to shine forth like a city set on a hill, like a lamp whose flame may not be extinguished." 

Before we worry about the darkness surrounding us, he said, we are called to radiate light, to give brightness to our cities, villages, homes, acquaintances and all our daily activities.

"The Lord will give us strength, the strength to be light in Him," the Pope encouraged, "so that everyone will see our good works, and seeing them, as Jesus reminds us, they will rejoice in God and give Him glory." 

Pope's Mass in Juba
Pope's Mass in Juba

Never let your light be distinguished

Once we live on earth like sons and daughters, or brothers and sisters, the Pope encouraged, "people will come to know that all of us have a Father in heaven."

“We are being asked, then, to burn with love, never to let our light be extinguished...”

"This country, so beautiful yet ravaged by violence," the Pope continued, "needs the light that each one of you has, or better, the light that each one of you is.

Pope Francis concluded by praying, that "you will be salt that spreads, dissolves and seasons South Sudan with the fraternal taste of the Gospel."  

"May your Christian communities shine radiantly, so that, like cities built on a hill, they will shed the light of goodness on all and show that it is beautiful and possible to live with generosity and self-giving, to have hope, and together to build a reconciled future."  

Juba, Holy Mass

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05 February 2023, 08:36