Monday, September 30, 2013

Pope: peace and joy, not perfect organization, signs of God’s presence in Church“Peace and joy” are the true signs of God’s presence in the Church – not perfection in its organization and planning. 

That’s what Pope Francis told the faithful gathered early Monday for the private daily mass in the Vatican guest house Santa Marta.

The disciples were enthusiastic, making plans for the future and discussing how the new-born Church should be organized. They debated who was the greatest amongst them and restricted to themselves the number of people wishing to do good in Jesus’ name. But Jesus, explains the Pope, surprises them – turning the focus of the discussion from “organization” to “children:” “He in fact, who is the smallest among all of you…is great!”

Drawing on the reading from the Prophet Zecharia, the Pope spoke in his homily of the signs of God’s presence: not in “fine organization” nor in “ a government that moves ahead, all clean and perfect,” but in the elderly sitting in the squares and in children playing .

“The future of a people is right here…in the elderly and in the children,” he said. “A people who does not take care of the elderly and children has no future because it will have no memory and it will have no promise! The elderly and children are the future of a people!”

Pope Francis warned that it is all too easy to shoo a child away or make them calm down with a candy or a game – or to tune out the elderly and ignore their advice with the excuse that “they’re old, poor people.”

And the disciples didn’t understand this either, stressed the Pope.

“The disciples wanted efficacy; they wanted the Church to go forward without problems and this can become a temptation for the Church: the Church of functionalism! The well-organized Church! Everything in its place, but without memory and without promise! This Church, in this way, cannot move ahead. It will be the Church of the fight for power; it will be the Church of jealousies between the baptized and many other things that occur when there is no memory and no promise.”

The “vitality of the Church,” then, does not come through documents and planning meetings- these are necessary, yes, but they are not “the sign of God’s presence.”

“The sign of God’s presence is this, so says the Lord: ‘Old men and old women will sit again in the squares of Jerusalem, each with a cane in hand for their age. And the squares of the city will swarm with young boys and girls playing…Playing makes us think of joy: it is the Lord’s joy. And these elderly people sitting with a cane in hand, calm: they make us think of peace. Peace and joy. This is the air of the Church!”