Pray Jesus for us
MASS WITH BELIEVERS FROM MYANMAR
Sermon by Pope Francis
St. Peter's Basilica
Sunday May 16, 2021
In the last hours of his earthly life, Jesus relies on prayer. At the painful moment of parting with his disciples and this world, Jesus prays for his friends. He bears the sin of this world in his heart and on his body, and at the same time Jesus continues to love us and pray for us. From Jesus' prayer we also learn how to survive the most dramatic and painful moments in life. In particular, let's look at one verb that Jesus uses to pray to the Father: preserve. Dear brothers and sisters, now that your beloved country of Myanmar is marked by violence, conflict and oppression, we want to ask ourselves what needs to be preserved there.
First of all it is about to keep the faith. We have to keep faith in order not to succumb to pain and not to fall into the resignation of those who no longer see a way out. Even before the gospel gives us the words of Jesus for contemplation, it directs our gaze to his attitude: the evangelist says that he "lifted his eyes up to heaven" (Joh 17.1). These are the last hours of his life, he feels the severity of fear in the face of the suffering ahead, he feels the darkness of the night that will fall on him, he feels betrayed and abandoned; but at that very moment Jesus lifts his eyes to heaven. He looks up to God. He does not hang his head in the face of evil, he does not allow himself to be depressed by pain, he does not fall back into the bitterness of the vanquished and disappointed, but he looks up. He had recommended the same to his people: when armies invade Jerusalem and the peoples are frightened and flee, and fear and desolation reign everywhere, then "stand up and lift up your heads, for your redemption is at hand" (Lk 21.28). To keep the faith means to look to heaven while fighting and innocent blood are shed on earth. It means not giving in to the logic of hatred and vengeance, but always looking firmly to the God of love, who calls us to be brothers and sisters with one another.
Prayer makes us open to trust in God even in difficult times, it helps us to hope despite all adversities, it strengthens us in our daily struggle. Prayer is not an escape, it does not mean running away from problems. On the contrary, it is the only weapon we have to hold love and hope in the midst of so many deadly weapons. It is not easy to look up when we are in pain, but faith helps us overcome the temptation to withdraw into ourselves! Perhaps we would like to protest and also complain aloud to God of our suffering. We shouldn't be afraid of that, it is also prayer. An elderly woman once said to her grandchildren: "Even if one is angry with God, it can be a prayer"; this is the wisdom of the righteous and simple-minded who know how to look up in difficult times ... In certain situations such a prayer is more welcome to God than other prayers because it comes from a wounded heart. And the Lord always hears the cry of his people and wipes away their tears. Dear brothers and sisters, don't stop looking up. Keep the faith!
Another aspect of this preservation is that Maintaining unity. Jesus prays to the Father to keep his own in unity. They "should be one" (Joh 17:21), a family in which love and brotherhood reign. He knew the hearts of his disciples; Occasionally he had seen them argue about who was the greatest, who had the most to say. This is a deadly disease: division. We experience this in our hearts because we are often even split within ourselves; we experience this in families, in communities, among peoples, even in church. There are many sins against unity: envy, jealousy, the pursuit of personal interests instead of the good of all, judgments against others. And these small conflicts that exist among us are then reflected in the major conflicts, such as the one that your country is experiencing these days. When the interests of individual groups, when the pursuit of profit and power gain the upper hand, there are always disputes and divisions. The final recommendation that Jesus makes before his death and resurrection is unity. Because the split comes from the devil who is the splitter, the great liar who always splits.
We are called to maintain unity, to take seriously this sad request of Jesus to the Father: to be one, to form a family, to have the courage to be united in friendship, love and brotherhood. How much we need fraternity today! I know that you can hardly influence some political and social circumstances, but the commitment to peace and brotherhood always comes from below: everyone can do their part on a small scale. Instead of nourishing violence, everyone can do their little bit as a builder of brotherhood, as a sower of brotherhood and in the restoration of what has broken. We are called to this, also as a church: Let us promote dialogue, respect for others, concern for brothers and sisters, the community! And let us not let a “thinking in parties” penetrate the church, a thinking that divides, a thinking that focuses on what is one's own and excludes others. That destroys: it destroys the family, it destroys the church, it destroys society, it destroys ourselves.
And thirdly, it is about that Guarding the Truth. Jesus asks the Father to truthfully sanctify his disciples who are sent out into the world to continue his mission. Guarding the truth does not mean defending any ideas, watching over a system of doctrines and beliefs, but remaining united to Christ and consecrated to his gospel. The truth, in the language of the apostle John, is Christ himself, the revelation of the Father's love. Jesus prays that the disciples who live in the world will not follow the standards of this world. That they do not succumb to the fascination of some idols, but keep their friendship with him; that they do not bend the gospel to human and worldly logic, but keep its message intact. Preserving the truth means being prophets in all life situations, that is, to be consecrated to the gospel and to be its witnesses, even if that only comes at the price of having to swim against the current. Sometimes we Christians seek a compromise, but the gospel requires us to be in the truth and for the truth and to give our lives for others. And where there is war, violence and hatred, being faithful to the gospel and being a craftsman of peace means getting involved, including making social and political decisions that risk your life. This is the only way things can change. The Lord does not need lukewarm people: He wants us to be sanctified in the truth and beauty of the gospel so that we can testify to the joy of the kingdom of God, even in the dark night of suffering and even when evil seems to prevail.
Dear brothers and sisters, today I want to bring the sufferings of your people to the Lord's altar and pray with you that God may convert the hearts of all to peace. May the prayer of Jesus help us to maintain our faith even in difficult times, to be builders of unity, to risk our lives for the truth of the gospel. Please do not lose hope: Jesus continues to pray to the Father; in his prayer he shows the Father the wounds through which he has earned us salvation. With this prayer Jesus intervenes for us all with the Father so that he may protect us from evil and deliver us from his power.
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