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Pope: Let the love of Christ enlighten families around the world

Oct. 26, 2013

Without the joy and the love of Christ "there is no joy and love in life. Even within the family, it is He who fills us unabated with gifts. We just have to rely on Him with confidence," Pope Francis told the families who came to Rome from 75 countries from around the world for the Pilgrimage of Families to the tomb of Peter, one of the last events of the Year of Faith proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI. The pilgrimage is set for today and tomorrow in Rome and its central theme is "Families, live the joy of faith." Families from more than 75 countries in five continents began gathering this morning in St Peter's Square for the meeting with Pope Francis. During the event, moments of prayer alternated with testimonies presented by various families, filmmakers like the Taviani brothers, and celebrities from the world of entertainment. Tomorrow, Francis will celebrate Mass in the square with the families and then recite the Angelus.

During his speech, Francis said: "Dear Families! Good evening and welcome to Rome! You have come as pilgrims from many parts of the world to profess your faith before the tomb of Saint Peter. This Square welcomes you and embraces you: we are one people, with one heart and soul, gathered by the Lord who loves and sustains us. I also greet the families who have joined us through television and the internet: this Square has expanded in every direction! You have given this meeting a title: "Family, Live the Joy of Faith!" I like that title. I have listened to your experiences and the stories you have shared. I have seen so many children, so many grandparents... I have felt the pain of families living in situations of poverty and war. I have listened to the young people who want to be married even though they face numerous difficulties. And so, let us ask ourselves: how is it possible to live the joy which comes from faith, in the family, today?

A saying of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew speaks to us: "Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Mt 11:28). Life is often wearisome. Work is tiring; looking for work is exhausting. But what is most burdensome in life is a lack of love. It weighs upon us never to receive a smile, not to be welcomed. Certain silences are oppressive, even at times within families, between husbands and wives, between parents and children, among siblings. Without love, the burden becomes even heavier. I think of elderly people living alone, and families who receive no help in caring for someone at home with special needs. "Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden", Jesus says. Dear families, the Lord knows our struggles and the burdens we have in our lives. But he also knows our great desire to find joy and rest! Do you remember? Jesus said, "... that your joy may be complete" (cf. Jn 15:11). He said this to the apostles and today he says it to us.

Here, then, is the first thing I would like to share with you this evening, and it is a saying of Jesus: Come to me, families from around the world, and I will give you rest, so that your joy may be complete. The second thing which I would share with you is an expression taken from the Rite of Marriage. Those who celebrate the sacrament say, "I promise to be true to you, in joy and in sadness, in sickness and in health; I will love you and honour you all the days of my life". At that moment, the couple does not know what joys and pains await them. They are setting out, like Abraham, on a journey together. That is what marriage is! Setting out and walking together, hand in hand, putting yourselves in the Lord's powerful hands. Hand in hand, forever and for all your life, pay no attention to this culture of the temporary that cuts our life in pieces. With trust in God's faithfulness, everything can be faced responsibly and without fear. Christian spouses are not naïve; they know life's problems and temptations. But they are not afraid to be responsible before God and before society. They do not run away, they do not hide, they do not shirk the mission of forming a family and bringing children into the world. But today, Father, it is difficult... Of course it is difficult! That is why we need the grace of the sacrament! The sacraments are not decorations in life; the sacrament of marriage is not a pretty ceremony, or a great party! That is not the sacrament, it is not grace. It is a decoration, whereas grace does not decorate. It makes us strong and courageous to continue. Without isolating ourselves, always together.

Christians celebrate the sacrament of marriage because they know they need it! They need it to stay together and to carry out their mission as parents. "In joy and in sadness, in sickness and in health". And in their marriage they pray with one another and with the community. Why? Only because it is helpful to do so? No! They do so because they need to, for the long journey they are making together. They need Jesus' help to walk beside one another in trust, to accept one another each day, and to forgive one another daily. And this, the ability to forgive, is important in families. Because we all have flaws, everyone. And sometimes we do things that are not good, things that harm others. Have the courage to apologise when you do wrong things in the family.

A few weeks ago, in this square, I said that to manage a family it is necessary to use three expressions: I want to repeat them. Three expressions: Excuse me, thank you, I am sorry. Three key expressions. We excuse ourselves so as not be intrusive. In the family, we ask if we can do something. We say thank you for love. But tell me: how many times a day do you say thank you to your wife? And you to your husband? How many days go by without using this expression, thank you? And now the last [expression], I am sorry. We all make mistakes, and sometimes offend a family member or our spouse. Sometimes, I like to say, dishes go flying. Harsh words are said. But listen to this piece of advice: Do not end your day without making peace, without saying I am sorry. And we can start again. Excuse me, thank you, I am sorry. Let us say them together? [And the crowd repeats aloud the three expressions].

The life of a family is filled with beautiful moments: rest, meals together, walks in the park or the countryside, visits to grandparents or to a sick person... But if love is missing, joy is missing, nothing is fun. Jesus gives always gives us that love: he is its endless source and he gives himself to us in the Eucharist. There he gives us his word and the bread of life, so that our joy may be complete.Here before us is the icon of Jesus' Presentation in the Temple. It is a beautiful and meaningful picture. Let us contemplate it and let it help us. Like all of you, the persons depicted in this scene have a journey to make: Mary and Joseph have travelled as pilgrims to Jerusalem in obedience to the Law of the Lord; the aged Simeon and the elderly prophetess Anna have come to the Temple led by the Holy Spirit. In this scene three generations come together: Simeon holds in his arms the child Jesus, in whom he recognizes the Messiah, while Anna is shown praising God and proclaiming salvation to those awaiting the redemption of Israel. These two elderly persons represent faith as memory. I wonder: Do you listen to your grandparents? Do you open your hearts to their memory? Grandparents are the wisdom of family and nation. A nation that does not listen to them will die! Listen to your grandparents!

Mary and Joseph are the family, sanctified by the presence of Jesus who is the fulfillment of all God's promises. Like the Holy Family of Nazareth, every family is part of the history of a people; it cannot exist without the generations who have gone before it. Dear families, you, too, are a part of God's people. Walk joyfully in the midst of this people. Remain ever close to Jesus and carry him to everyone by your witness. I thank you for having come here. Together, let us make our own the words of Saint Peter, words which strengthen us and which will confirm us in times of trial: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life" (Jn 6:68). With the help of Christ's grace, live the joy of faith! May the Lord bless you, and may Mary, our Mother, be ever at your side. Thank you!


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