“Love always and love everyone” – Exaudi

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Mass at Bahrain National Stadium

This morning, the Holy Father Francis left the papal residence and went to the Bahrain National Stadium for Mass.

Upon his arrival, after changing cars and after a few laps in the popemobile among the faithful, at 8:30 a.m. (6:30 a.m. Rome time), the Holy Father presided over the Eucharistic celebration for peace and justice.

During the Celebration, after the proclamation of the Holy Gospel, Pope Francis gives the homily.

At the end of the Holy Mass, after the address of greeting by the Apostolic Administrator of the Vicariate of North Arabia, HE Msgr. Paul Hinder, OFM Cap., Titular Bishop of Mâcon, and the final blessing, the Pope returns by car to the Papal Residence where he has a private lunch.

We publish below the homily that the Holy Father gave during the Holy Mass:

The Omelia of the Holy Father

The prophet Isaiah says of the Messiah whom God will raise up: “His power will increase continually, and there will be peace without end” (East 9:6). This sounds like a contradiction in terms: on the world stage, we often find that the more power we seek, the more peace is threatened. Instead, the prophet announces extraordinary news: the coming Messiah will indeed be mighty, not like a commander who makes war and rules over others, but like the “Prince of Peace” ( v. 5), which reconciles people to God and to each other. Its great power does not come from the strength of violence, but from the weakness of love. And that’s the power of Christ: that’s love. Jesus gives us this same power, the power to love, to love in his name, to love as he loved. How? Unconditionally. Not only when things are going well and you want to love, but still. Not only to our friends and neighbors, but to everyone, including our enemies. Always and towards everyone.

Love always and love everyone: Let’s stop and think about this.

First, Jesus’ words today (cf. Mountain 5:38-48) invite us to always love, that is to say, to remain always in his love, to cultivate this love and to put it into practice, whatever the situation in which we live. Notice, however, that Jesus’ vision is completely practical; he does not say that it will be easy, and he does not speak of sentimental or romantic love, as if in our human relations there would not be moments of conflict or grounds for hostility between peoples. Jesus is not an idealist, but a realist: he speaks explicitly of “evil” and “enemies” (vv. 38, 43). He knows that in our relationships there is a daily struggle between love and hate. In our hearts, too, there is a daily clash between light and darkness: between our many resolves and desires, and the sinful weakness that often takes over and leads us to do wrong. He also knows that, despite all our generous efforts, we do not always receive the good we expect and even sometimes, in some incomprehensible way, we experience evil. Moreover, he suffers when he sees nowadays and in many parts of the world, ways of exercising power that feed on oppression and violence, seeking to expand their own space by restricting that of others, imposing their own domination and restricting fundamental freedoms, and thus oppressing the weak. And so, says Jesus, conflict, oppression and enmity exist among us.

In light of all this, the important question to ask is: what should we do in such situations? Jesus’ answer is startling, bold and daring. He tells his followers to find the courage to risk something that seems sure to fail. He asks them to remain always, faithfully, in love, despite everything, even in the face of evil and our enemy. A purely human reaction would limit us to searching “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”, but that would be doing justice by using the same weapons of evil that we have used. Jesus dares to propose something new, different, unthinkable, something that his own way. “I tell you, do not resist the evil one. But if someone strikes you on the right cheek, offer him the other also” (v. 39). This is what the Lord asks of us: not to dream ideally of a world of fraternity, but to choose, starting from ourselves, to practice universal fraternity concretely and courageously, persevering in the good even when we are evil, breaking the spiral of revenge, disarming violence, demilitarizing the heart. The Apostle Paul echoes Jesus when he writes, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (ROMs 12:21).

What Jesus asks us to do does not primarily concern the great problems of humanity, but the concrete situations of our daily life: our relationships in the family and in the Christian community, at work and in society. There will be friction and moments of tension, there will be conflict and opposing views, but those who follow the Prince of Peace must always strive for peace. And peace cannot be restored if a harsh word is answered with an even harsher word, if one slap leads to another. No, we must “disarm”, break the chains of evil, break the spiral of violence and put an end to resentment, complaints and self-pity. We must continue to love, always. This is how Jesus gives glory to the God of heaven and builds peace on earth. Always love.

We now come to the second aspect: love everyone. We can commit ourselves to love, but it is not enough to restrict this commitment to the narrow circle of those who love us, who are our friends, who resemble us or who are members of our family. Again, what Jesus asks us to do is amazing because it transcends the limits of law and common sense. Loving your neighbour, your loved ones, although reasonable, is already exhausting enough. In general, this is what a community or a people tries to do to preserve its inner peace. If people belong to the same family or the same nation, or have the same ideas or the same tastes and profess the same beliefs, it is normal that they try to help and love each other. But what happens if those who are far away approach us, if strangers, different or with other beliefs, become our neighbors? This very land is a living image of coexistence in diversity, and in fact an image of our world, increasingly marked by the constant migration of peoples and by a pluralism of ideas, customs and traditions. It is therefore important to take up the challenge of Jesus: “If you love those who love you, what reward have you? Don’t even tax collectors do the same? (Mountain 5:46). If we want to be children of the Father and build a world of brothers and sisters, the real challenge is to learn to love everyone, even our enemies: “You have heard that it has been said: ‘You shall love your neighbor and you your enemy.’ But I say to you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (vv. 43-44). Concretely, this means choosing not to have enemies, choosing to see the other not as an obstacle to overcome, but as a brother or sister to love. To love our enemies is to make this earth the reflection of the sky; it is to attract to our world the eyes and the heart of the Father who neither distinguishes nor discriminates, but “makes his sun rise on the wicked and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (v. 45 ).

Brothers and sisters, the power of Jesus is love. Jesus gives us the power to love in this way that seems superhuman to us. This ability, however, cannot simply be the result of our own efforts; it is first of all the fruit of the grace of God. A grace that must be implored insistently: “Jesus, you who love me, teach me to love like you. Jesus, you who forgive me, teach me to forgive like you. Send your Spirit, the Spirit of love, upon me. Let us ask for this grace. We often bring our requests before the Lord, but what is essential for us Christians is to know how to love as Christ loves. His greatest gift is the capacity to love, and this is what we receive when we make room for the Lord in prayer, when we welcome his presence in his transforming word and in the revolutionary humility of his broken bread. Thus, slowly, the walls that harden our hearts crumble, and we rediscover our joy in performing works of mercy towards all. Then we realize that happiness in life passes through the Beatitudes and consists in becoming artisans of peace (cf. Mountain 5:9).

Dear brothers and sisters, today I thank you for your sweet and joyful testimony of fraternity, for being seeds of love and peace on this earth. This is the challenge that the Gospel launches every day to our Christian communities and to each one of us. To you, to all who have come for this celebration from the four countries of the Apostolic Vicariate of Northern Arabia – Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, and beyond – I bring today the affection and closeness of the universal Church, which looks at you and embraces you, which loves you and encourages you. May the Blessed Virgin, Our Lady of Arabia, accompany you on your journey and keep you constantly in the love of all.

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