I read this narrative in one of the newsletters I receive. Very curious on these things work out, no?
When the parish priest of a beautiful village of Provence, South of France, asked in January for a new work of art for his parish, he couldn’t imagine that his command would meet the joyful events of the whole church, and of the Society. As this diocesan priest was very close to the Franciscans, and to the Jesuits, he asked a parishioner to create a drawing of St Ignatius and St Francis, and another to transform it in a wood bas relief for his parish. The project was going on, when the new pope, a Jesuit, decided to call himself Francis. This drawing had suddenly a more universal signification, and the artist transformed it also into an icon. Every Jesuit will be able to read it and to appreciate its symbols.
At the Sacrifice of the Mass in St Peter’s Square, Pope Francis also celebrated the Rite of Confirmation with 44 people from around the world. As we approach Pentecost, this excerpt from his short homily is very instructive. Pay attention. Don’t forget to daily ask, no beg, for the Holy Spirit to have a special grace to embrace the day. May the Spirit be with these 44 newly confirmed in the Faith, indeed, all those around the world who are receiving the sacrament of Confirmation these days.
This is the work of the Holy Spirit: he brings us the new things of God. He comes to us and makes all things new; he changes us. The Spirit changes us! And Saint John’s vision reminds us that all of us are journeying towards the heavenly Jerusalem, the ultimate newness which awaits us and all reality, the happy day when we will see the Lord’s face – that marvelous face, the most beautiful face of the Lord Jesus – and be with him for ever, in his love.
You see, the new things of God are not like the novelties of this world, all of which are temporary; they come and go, and we keep looking for more. The new things which God gives to our lives are lasting, not only in the future, when we will be with him, but today as well. God is even now making all things new; the Holy Spirit is truly transforming us, and through us he also wants to transform the world in which we live. Let us open the doors to the Spirit, let ourselves be guided by him, and allow God’s constant help to make us new men and women, inspired by the love of God which the Holy Spirit bestows on us! How beautiful it would be if each of you, every evening, could say: Today at school, at home, at work, guided by God, I showed a sign of love towards one of my friends, my parents, an older person!
In the Pauline Chapel in Apostolic Palace, Pope Francis offered Mass with some of the cardinals on the feast of Saint George, the name day of the Pope, Saint George. There are several stellar points made the Pope noted below with my emphasis. In these days when one’s identity as a Christian is questioned, or even rejected for superficial reasons, I think that if you consider what the Church teaches, especially through the eyes of Pope Benedict and now through Pope Francis, you will notice the truth, not ideology, joy, not grumpiness. The Pope uses another previous pope to help him and us to understand the work of the Church –her mission– under the power of the Holy Spirit.
The [first] reading today makes me think that the missionary expansion of the Church began precisely at a time of persecution, and these Christians went as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, and proclaimed the Word. They had this apostolic fervor within them, and that is how the faith spread! Some, people of Cyprus and Cyrene – not these, but others who had become Christians – went to Antioch and began to speak to the Greeks too. It was a further step. And this is how the Church moved forward. Whose was this initiative to speak to the Greeks? This was not clear to anyone but the Jews. But … it was the Holy Spirit, the One who prompted them ever forward … But some in Jerusalem, when they heard this, became ‘nervous and sent Barnabas on an “apostolic visitation”: perhaps, with a little sense of humor we could say that this was the theological beginning of the Doctrine of the Faith: this apostolic visit by Barnabas. He saw, and he saw that things were going well.
And so the Church was a Mother, the Mother of more children, of many children. It became more and more of a Mother. A Mother who gives us the faith, a Mother who gives us an identity. But the Christian identity is not an identity card: Christian identity is belonging to the Church, because all of these belonged to the Church, the Mother Church. Because it is not possible to find Jesus outside the Church. The great Paul VI said: “Wanting to live with Jesus without the Church, following Jesus outside of the Church, loving Jesus without the Church is an absurd dichotomy.” And the Mother Church that gives us Jesus gives us our identity that is not only a seal, it is a belonging. Identity means belonging. This belonging to the Church is beautiful.