July 8, 2020 on the seventh anniversary of his visit to Lampedusa –Pope Francis speaks on seeking the Face of the Lord:
The Responsorial Psalm invites us always to seek the Lord’s face: “Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually” (Ps 105:4). This quest is fundamental for the life of every believer, for we have come to realize that our ultimate goal in life is the encounter with God.
To seek the face of God is an assurance that our journey through this world will end well. It is an exodus towards the Promised Land, our heavenly home. The face of God is our destination and the guiding star that helps us not to lose our way.
The people of Israel, as described by the prophet Hosea in the first reading (cf. 10:1-3.7-8.12), had gone astray. They had lost sight of the Promised Land and were wandering in the desert of iniquity. Abundance, prosperity and wealth had caused their hearts to drift away from the Lord and had filled them instead with falsehood and injustice.
We too, as Christians today, are not immune to this sin. “The culture of comfort, which makes us think only of ourselves, makes us insensitive to the cries of other people, makes us live in soap bubbles which, however lovely, are insubstantial; they offer a fleeting and empty illusion which results in indifference to others; indeed, it even leads to the globalization of indifference. In this globalized world, we have fallen into globalized indifference. We have become used to the suffering of others: it doesn’t affect me; it doesn’t concern me; it’s none of my business!” (Homily in Lampedusa, 8 July 2013).
Hosea’s words reach us today as a renewed summons to conversion, a call to turn our eyes to the Lord and recognize his face. The prophet says: “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you” (10:12).
Our efforts to seek the face of God are born of the desire for an encounter with the Lord, a personal encounter, an encounter with his immense love, with his saving power. The twelve apostles described in today’s Gospel (cf. Mt 10:1-7) received the grace to encounter him physically in Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God. Jesus – as we heard – called each of them by name. He looked them in the eye, and they in turn gazed at his face, listened to his voice and beheld his miracles. The personal encounter with the Lord, a time of grace and salvation, entails a mission: “As you go”, Jesus tells them, proclaim the good news: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (v. 7). Encounter and mission must not be separated.
This kind of personal encounter with Jesus Christ is possible also for us, who are the disciples of the third millennium. In our effort to seek the Lord’s face, we can recognize him in the face of the poor, the sick, the abandoned, and the foreigners whom God places on our way. This encounter becomes also for us a time of grace and salvation, and summons us to the same mission entrusted to the Apostles.
Today marks the seventh year, the seventh anniversary of my visit to Lampedusa. In the light of God’s word, I would like to repeat what I said to those taking part in the meeting “Free from Fear” in February last year: “The encounter with the other is also an encounter with Christ. He himself told us this. He is the one knocking on our door, hungry, thirsty, naked, sick, imprisoned; he is the one seeking an encounter with us, asking our help, asking to come ashore. And lest we have any doubt, he tells us categorically: ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did to one of the least of these my brethren, you did to me’” (Mt25:40).
“Whatever you did…” for better or for worse! This admonition is all the more timely today. We ought to use it as a basic starting point for our daily examination of conscience. Here I think of Libya, detention camps, the abuses and violence to which migrants are subjected; I think of journeys of hope, rescue operations, and cases of rejection. “Whatever you did… you did to me.”
I remember that day, seven years ago, in the very south of Europe, on that island… A number of people told me their stories and all that they had gone through to get there. There were interpreters present. One person was telling me about terrible things in his language, and the interpreter seemed to translate well, but this person spoke so long and the translation was brief. “Well”, I thought, “their language must require more words to express an idea”. When I returned home that afternoon, in the reception area there was a lady – God bless her, she has since passed away – who was a daughter of Ethiopians. She understood the language and she had seen our conversation on television. She said this to me. “Listen, what the Ethiopian translator told you is not even a quarter of the torture and suffering that those people experienced”. They gave me the “distilled” version. This is what is happening today with Libya: they are giving us a “distilled version”. The war is indeed horrible, we know that, but you cannot imagine the hell that people are living there, in that detention camp. And those people came only with hope of crossing the sea.
May the Virgin Mary, Solacium migrantium, “Solace of Migrants”, help us discover the face of her Son in all our brothers and sisters forced to flee their homeland because of the many injustices that continue to afflict our world.
“Look at the Crucified One”
Pope Francis speaking in his General Audience, Wednesday, April 8, of Holy Week, he related the account of Our Lord’s Passion:
“During these weeks filled with anxiety and suffering because of the pandemic… we maybe asking ourselves a question about God” What does He do in the face of our pain? Where is He when everything is going wrong? Why doesn’t He solve the problems immediately? … Those who followed Him abandoned Him. They were thinking: if this is Jesus’ fate, He is not the Messiah, because God is strong and invincible… If we read further ahead we discover something surprising: When Jesus died, a Roman centurion, a man who was not a believer, but had seen Him suffer on the Cross, who ha heard Him forgive those who had harmed Him, was touched by His infinite love and said: ‘Truly, this man was the Son of God.’ He revealed the true Face of God by saying the opposite of what others were saying.”
It will do us good to look at the Crucified One in silence and see who our Lord is: He does not point His finger at anyone, but opens His arms wide to all, even to the one who is crucifying Him; He does not crush us with His glory, but allows Himself to be undressed for us; He does not love us with words, but gives us life in silence.”
“It will do us good to look at the Crucified One in silence and see who our Lord is: He does not point His finger at anyone, but opens His arms wide to all, even to the one who is crucifying Him; He does not crush us with his glory, but allows Himself to be undressed for us; He does not love us with words, but gives us life in silence.”
A Pure Heart sees God
By Francesca Merlo (vaticannews)
The sixth Beatitude promises that those with a pure heart will see God. Pope Francis began his catechesis explaining that anyone who seeks the face of God shows the desire for a “personal relationship” with Him.
Like the disciples at Emmaus, “blindness” comes from a foolish and slow heart, said the Pope. In this case, “one sees things clouded”, he added.
The Lord opens the disciples’ eyes at the end of their journey, which culminates in the breaking of the bread.
“Here lies the wisdom of this Beatitude,” said the Pope. “To be able to contemplate it, it is necessary to look deep within our hearts and make space for God”.
“To see God it is not necessary to change our glasses or the place from which we are looking. Our heart needs to be liberated from its own deceit. When we realize that our worst enemy is often hidden within our own hearts, this is a decisive maturation process. That is the most noble battle against the interior deceptions generated by our sins”
To understand what “purity of heart” is, we must recall that in the Bible, “the heart does not consist solely in sentiments”. It is the “most intimate” part of the human being: “the interior space where a person is him or herself”, said the Pope.
The ‘pure of heart’ are not born that way. They have “lived an interior simplification, learning to renounce evil in itself”. The Bible calls this process “circumcision of the heart,” said the Pope. It is an inner purification that implies recognising the part of the heart that is under the influence of evil. This helps us to be led by the Holy Spirit, “through this journey of the heart to ‘see God’”.
In this beatific vision there is a future dimension: “the joy of the Kingdom of Heaven”, said the Pope. But there is also another, he continued: “To see God means discerning the designs of Providence in what happens, recognising His presence in the Sacraments, in our brothers and sisters, above all the poor and suffering, and to recognise God where He manifests Himself.”
A lifelong path of liberation begins in the furrow of the Beatitudes. This path is the Holy Spirit’s work, God’s work, when we give Him space.
“We are not afraid,” concluded the Pope. “Let us open the doors of our hearts to the Holy Spirit so that He may purify us and lead us on this journey towards joy and peace”.
“The Commandments show us the Face of Christ and open the door to the new life of grace; by accepting God’s offer of saving love, we find our true selves and the source of a joy that will never end. ” –Pope Francis, Nov. 28, 2018
“Jesus says, ‘Truly I tell you that, just as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me’ (Mt 25:40). These least of our brethren, whom he loves dearly, are the hungry and the sick, the stranger and the prisoner, the poor and the abandoned, the suffering who receive no help, the needy who are cast aside. On their faces we can imagine seeing Jesus’ own face; on their lips, even if pursed in pain, we can hear his words: ‘This is my body'” (Mt 26:26). –Pope Francis, World Day of the Poor
“With Mary’s protection, may we be for our world sentinels of the dawn, contemplating the true Face of Jesus the Saviour, resplendent at Easter. Thus may we rediscover the young and beautiful face of the Church, which shines forth when she is missionary, welcoming, free, faithful, poor in means and rich in love.”–Pope Francis, canonization Mass of Jacinta & Francisco -homily
Pope Francis gave this address to the pilgrims at Fatima at the Rosary Procession and Vigil, teaching us to seek the Face of God with Mary, who, as “no other creature…basked in the light of the Face of God”:
Dear Pilgrims to Mary and with Mary!
Thank you for your welcome and for joining me on this pilgrimage of hope and peace. Even now, I want to assure all of you who are united with me, here or elsewhere, that you have a special place in my heart. I feel that Jesus has entrusted you to me (cf. Jn 21:15-17), and I embrace all of you and commend you to Jesus, “especially those most in need” – as Our Lady taught us to pray (Apparition of July, 1917). May she, the loving and solicitous Mother of the needy, obtain for them the Lord’s blessing! On each of the destitute and outcast robbed of the present, on each of the excluded and abandoned denied a future, on each of the orphans and victims of injustice refused a past, may there descend the blessing of God, incarnate in Jesus Christ.
“The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace” (Num 6:24-26).
This blessing was fulfilled in the Virgin Mary. No other creature ever basked in the light of God’s face as did Mary; she in turn gave a human face to the Son of the eternal Father. Now we can contemplate her in the succession of joyful, luminous, sorrowful and glorious moments of her life, which we revisit in our recitation of the rosary.
With Christ and Mary, we abide in God. Indeed, “if we want to be Christian, we must be Marian; in a word, we have to acknowledge the essential, vital and providential relationship uniting Our Lady to Jesus, a relationship that opens before us the way leading to him” (PAUL VI, Address at the Shine of Our Lady of Bonaria, Cagliari, 24 April 1970). Each time we recite the rosary, in this holy place or anywhere else, the Gospel enters anew into the life of individuals, families, peoples and the entire world.
Pilgrims with Mary… But which Mary? A teacher of the spiritual life, the first to follow Jesus on the “narrow way” of the cross by giving us an example, or a Lady “unapproachable” and impossible to imitate? A woman “blessed because she believed” always and everywhere in God’s words (cf. Lk 1:42.45), or a “plaster statue” from whom we beg favours at little cost? The Virgin Mary of the Gospel, venerated by the Church at prayer, or a Mary of our own making: one who restrains the arm of a vengeful God; one sweeter than Jesus the ruthless judge; one more merciful than the Lamb slain for us?
“Mercy is not contrary to justice but is the behaviour of God toward the sinner…God does not deny justice. He rather envelops it and surpasses it with an even greater event in which we experience love as the foundation of true justice” (MV, 21). Jesus is the face of the mercy of God the Father: “God so loved the world […] [that] the world might be saved through him [the Son]” (Jn 3:16, 17) –Pope Francis Misericordiae Vultus
Pope Francis was presented with a beautiful copy of the Holy Face of Manoppello in St. Peter’s Square on August 26, 2015 by the Rulli Family. Thanks to Mr. Raymond Frost, more details can be found at the Holy Face of Manoppello blogspot.
“Jesus gives us two faces; actually only one real face, that of God reflected in many faces, because in the face of each brother, especially the smallest, the most fragile, the defenseless and the needy, there is God’s own image. And we must ask ourselves: when we meet one of these brothers, are we able to recognize the face of God in him?” — Pope Francis
Lord Jesus Christ,
you have taught us to be merciful like the heavenly Father,
and have told us that whoever sees you sees Him.
Show us your face and we will be saved.
Your loving gaze freed Zacchaeus and Matthew from being enslaved by money;
the adulteress and Magdalene from seeking happiness only in created things;
made Peter weep after his betrayal,
and assured Paradise to the repentant thief.
Let us hear, as if addressed to each one of us, the words that you spoke to the Samaritan woman:
“If you knew the gift of God!”
You are the visible face of the invisible Father,
of the God who manifests his power above all by forgiveness and mercy:
let the Church be your visible face in the world, its Lord risen and glorified.
You willed that your ministers would also be clothed in weakness
in order that they may feel compassion for those in ignorance and error:
let everyone who approaches them feel sought after, loved, and forgiven by God.
Send your Spirit and consecrate every one of us with its anointing,
so that the Jubilee of Mercy may be a year of grace from the Lord,
and your Church, with renewed enthusiasm, may bring good news to the poor,
proclaim liberty to captives and the oppressed,
and restore sight to the blind.
We ask this through the intercession of Mary, Mother of Mercy,
you who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever.
“Every Sick and fragile person can see in your face the Face of Jesus, and you also can recognize in the suffering person the body of Christ.”
“May people and institutions around the world never fail to assist them: their face is The Face of Christ!”
“Each one of us is invited to recognize in the fragile human being The Face of The Lord, who in human flesh, experienced the indifference and loneliness to which we often condemn the poorest, either in the developing nations or in the developed societies. Each child that is unborn, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, bears the Face of Jesus Christ, bear the Face of The Lord, who even before he was born, and then soon as he was born experienced the rejection of the world. And also each old person and – I spoke of the child, let us speak of the elderly, even if infirm or at the end of his days, bears the Face of Christ. They cannot be discarded, as the “culture of waste proposes! They cannot be discarded!” Divine Mercy Sunday 2013
On April 11th, Divine Mercy Sunday of 2015, Pope Francis gave a great gift to all the people of the world: Misericordiae Vultus (Merciful Face). The first lines of the document declaring an “Extraordinary Year of Mercy” are both profound and powerful, “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy. These words might well sum up the mystery of the Christian Faith.” In this beautiful letter (which can be read here) Pope Francis, the servant of the servants of God, extends to all who read it “Grace, Mercy and Peace.”
The Holy Year will open on December 8, 2015, The Solemnity of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, highlighting God’s greatest mercy in the history of mankind. “When faced with the gravity of sin, God responds with the fullness of mercy” by choosing Mary to be the Mother of the Redeemer. The “Holy Doors” of Mercy will be opened beginning in Rome and then in Cathedrals and Co-Cathedrals throughout the world. The Holy Doors “will become a Door of Mercy through which anyone who enters will experience the love of God who consoles, pardons and instils hope.” The jubilee will close with the liturgical Solemnity of Christ the King, the living face of God’s mercy on the 20th of November 2016. “On that day, as we seal the Holy Door, we shall be filled, above all with a sense of gratitude and thanksgiving to the Most Holy Trinity for having granted us an extraordinary time of grace.”
In the letter Pope Francis invokes the Holy Spirit by praying, “May the Holy Spirit, who guides the steps of believers in co-operating with the work of salvation wrought by Christ, lead the way and support the People of God so that they may contemplate the face of mercy.” This prayer is an echo of the words of Pope St. John Paul II who prayed, ” May the Holy Spirit, which you have granted, bring to maturation your work of salvation, though your Holy Face, which shines forever and ever.” and of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI who said, “The Face of Christ is the supreme revelation of Christ’s mercy.”
During this Jubilee Year of Mercy Pope Francis wants us to “Keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and his merciful gaze, that we may experience the love of the Most Holy Trinity.” He calls us to be merciful to others and reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy as a way of awakening our conscience and enter more deeply into the heart of the Gospel so that “we become merciful just as our heavenly Father is merciful.” (Lk 6:36)
“Pilgrimage has a special place in the Holy Year because it represents the journey each of us makes in life.” Pope Francis tells us that Jesus shows us the steps of the pilgrimage to attain out goal: “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” (Lk 6:37-38) Pope Francis reminds us that Jesus asks us to “forgive and give.” “To be instruments of mercy because it was we who first received mercy from God.”
The season of Lent for the Jubilee Year will be a time to meditate on Sacred Scripture “to help rediscover the merciful Face of the Father.” The Pope cites (Hos 11:5) speaking of the unfaithful people of God who deserved a just punishment and anger, in which the prophets speech “reveals the true face of God:” “How can I give you up, O Ephraim! How can I hand you over, O Israel! How can I make you like Admah! How can I treat you like Zeboilim! My heart recoils within me, my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my fierce anger, I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come to destroy.” “Gods anger lasts but a moment, His mercy forever.”
The Holy Father also turns his gaze to the face of Mary, Mother of Mercy and our Mother, “May the sweetness of her countenance watch over us in this Holy Year, so that all of us may rediscover the joy of God’s tenderness.” Pope Francis asks us to address our Merciful Mother in the words of the Salve Regina (Hail, Holy Queen), “a prayer ever ancient and ever new, so that she may never tire of turning her merciful eyes toward us, and make us worthy to contemplate the face of mercy, her Son, Jesus.”
The primary task of the Church, Pope Francis urges us, is to be “a herald of mercy,” “especially at a moment full of great hopes and signs of contradiction, is to introduce everyone to the great mystery of God’s mercy by contemplation of the Face of Christ.”
Divine Mercy, the Holy Face and Peace
“This Mercy of God, which has a concrete Face, the Face of Jesus, the Risen Christ.” –Pope Francis
Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis, although differing in personality and charism, all have something in common, if we connect the pontifical dots… and the dots are: Mercy, the Face of God and Peace.
Beginning with Pope St. John Paul II, who established Divine Mercy Sunday, canonized St. Faustina, the Saint of Divine Mercy and wrote in an encyclical: “The Message of Divine Mercy has always been near and dear to me… which I took with me to the See of Peter and which in a sense, forms the image of this Pontificate.”
The message of Divine Mercy to the world began in 1931, when Our Lord appeared to a Polish nun, St. Faustina, in a vision. She saw Jesus clothed in a white garment with His right hand raised in blessing. His left was touching His garment in the area of His Heart, from where two large rays came forth, one red and the other pale. Jesus said to her:
Paint an image according to the pattern you see with the signature: Jesus I trust in You. I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish. I also promise victory over [its] enemies already here on earth, especially at the hour of death. I Myself will defend it as My own glory. (Diary, 47, 48) I am offering people a vessel with which they are to keep coming for graces to the fountain of mercy. That vessel is this image with the signature: “Jesus, I trust in You” (327) I desire that this image be venerated, first in your chapel, and [then] throughout the world.
At the request of her spiritual director, St. Faustina asked the Lord about the meaning of the rays in the Image. She heard these words in reply:
The two rays denote Blood and Water. The pale ray stands for the Water which makes souls righteous. The red ray stands for the Blood which is the life of souls. These two rays issued forth from the depths of My tender mercy when my agonized Heart was opened by a lance on the Cross. …Happy is the one who will dwell in their shelter, for the just hand of God shall not lay hold of him (299).
The image represents the graces of Divine Mercy poured out upon the world, especially through Baptism and the Eucharist.
Good Friday, the day on which Jesus died and “Blood and Water poured forth for souls” begins the first day of the Divine Mercy Novena, which ends on Divine Mercy Sunday, the second Sunday in Easter. (The novena can be found here: http://thedivinemercy.org/message/devotions/novena.php)
Pope St. John Paul II died on April 2nd, the eve of Divine Mercy Sunday in 2002. Pope Benedict XVI recalled the words of Pope St. John Paul II at the dedication of the Divine Mercy Shrine in Krakow, Poland: “Outside the mercy of God there is no other source of hope for human beings.” Pope Benedict said, “His message, like St. Faustina’s, leads back to the face of Christ, the supreme revelation of God’s mercy. Constantly contemplating that face: This is the legacy that he has left us, which we welcome with joy and make our own.”
Pope Benedict XVI did indeed make the message of Divine Mercy his own, connecting it to devotion to the Holy Face. He spoke again and again of the Holy Face of Jesus, “that mirror, mystery-laden of God’s infinite Mercy.”
Continuing to “connect the dots,” Pope Francis, on Divine Mercy Sunday 2013 said:
“Each one of us is invited to recognize in the fragile human being The Face of The Lord, who in human flesh, experienced the indifference and loneliness to which we often condemn the poorest, either in the developing nations or in the developed societies. Each child that is unborn, but is unjustly condemned to be aborted, bears the Face of Jesus Christ, bear the Face of The Lord, who even before he was born, and then soon as he was born experienced the rejection of the world. And also each old person and – I spoke of the child, let us speak of the elderly, even if infirm or at the end of his days, bears the Face of Christ. They cannot be discarded, as the “culture of waste proposes! They cannot be discarded!”
Pope Francis recently made the joyful announcement of a special Holy Year of Mercy, again relating the message of Mercy to the Face of God:
“Dear brothers and sisters, I have often thought about how the Church might make clear its mission of being a witness to mercy. It is a journey that begins with a spiritual conversion. For this reason, I have decided to call an extraordinary Jubilee that is to have the mercy of God at its center. It shall be a Holy Year of Mercy. We want to live this Year in the light of the Lord’s words: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (cf. Lk 6:36)
This Holy Year will begin on this coming Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception and will end on November 20, 2016, the Sunday dedicated to Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe — and living face of the Father’s mercy.”
When the world turns to the merciful and glorious Face of God there will be peace, as Pope St. John Paul said in his prayer to the Holy Face:
“Holy Face, which looks at us and searches for us, kind and merciful, You who call us to conversion and invite us for the fullness of love, we adore and bless you. In Your luminous Face, we learn to love and to be loved, to find freedom and reconciliation, to promote peace, which radiates from you and leads to you.”
In Pope Benedict XVI’s homily on the World Day of Peace in 2013, he said that peace is “His [God’s] most sublime gift, in which He turns toward us the splendor of His Face.”
Let us pray that the fruit of the upcoming “Holy Year of Mercy” announced by Pope Francis will be peace, not as the world gives, but by the gift of The Holy Spirit poured into our hearts.” This, Pope Benedict XVI said, is the foundation of our peace, which nothing can take from us.”
“May the Lord bless and keep you; may He make His Face shine upon you and be merciful to you; may He turn His countenance toward you and grant you His PEACE!”