Saturday of the 6th Week of Eastertide
“anything you ask for from the Father he will grant in my name”
March 28 was a dark, rainy and quiet night at the Sagrato of St Peter’s Basilica. Pope Francis was a lone figure walking up the path towards an ambo. He looked frail and worn out. With a limp in his gait, he appeared at times to be unsteady, struggling, breathless. It was a lonely walk. It was a walk up a long path. It was raining — but he carried no umbrella. Oblivious to his own comfort and needs and apparent fatigue, it did not seem to matter to him that he was getting wet, as if to say, the world is already in so much pain, a little rain would add little more to the misery. What he had to do was far more important, and is all that he was focused on. St Peter’s square was literally empty. Our Holy Father was doing this, alone. God did not want this done any other way.
On this earth, only Pope Francis could do this – for all of us. Only he could ask the Father for what the world so desperately need now. In the name of His Son, who hung on the miraculous crucifix of the Church of St Marcellus. Never in my life have I better understood than at that moment, what our Holy Father means to the Church and her flock – here was our Shepherd, caring for his flock. So, it seemed poignant and appropriate, that he was alone that evening. Just him and God. For us.
And despite his frailty, you could see that at that point in time, there was nothing more important to Pope Francis than to do this. To lift all of us, all of the Christian flock and all of the whole world, to the mercy of God. Like Jesus on the road to Calvary, Pope Francis trudged his way, laboriously, to the altar of sacrifice, to the Blessed Sacrament, where he placed the prayers of the entire world, for the repentance of this world, that God would be merciful and save the flock that He still loved so very much. Pope Francis looked humbled, sorrowful. But yet you could sense his sheer determination that he will get this Urbi et Orbi done – he will lift his people and the whole world for God to deliver us from the pandemic. He will pray to the Father in the name of His Son. Like Jesus at Calvary, Pope Francis was carrying the weight of the world’s sufferings, terrors, sorrows, regrets, of many who were sorrowful and repentant. But so too, this was for the many, many, many more who may not be suffering as much, and who continue to remain indifferent, sinful, violent and selfish. And like Jesus who carried the merciless and terrifying weight of the Cross, so too Pope Francis carried the weight of the Cross we are all carrying right now.
In his homily, these words of our Holy Father struck home, and struck deep, in me:
“Evening has come. For weeks now it has been evening. Thick darkness has gathered over our squares, our streets and our cities; it has taken over our lives, filling everything with a deafening silence and a distressing void, that stops everything as it passes by. In this world, that you love more than we do, we have gone ahead at breakneck speed, feeling powerful and able to do anything. Greedy for profit, we let ourselves get caught up in things, and lured away by haste. We did not stop at your reproach to us, we were not shaken awake by wars or injustice across the world, nor did we listen to the cry of the poor or of our ailing planet. We carried on regardless, thinking we would stay healthy in a world that was sick. Now that we are in a stormy sea, we implore you: “Wake up, Lord!”.
And as Pope Francis held up the Blessed Sacrament in blessing to the whole world, in the silence of that sacred evening, God spoke and said: “Yes, I do care. More than you will ever be able to comprehend. I have never stopped caring for you. I have never stopped loving you. I have never stopped praying for you. To change from the deep errors of your ways. To stop destroying each other, destroying the earth and all creatures that live in it and from destroying yourselves. To allow Me back into your life. Back into all of My creation, whom I love so dearly and for whom I mourn so deeply.”
“My child, it is YOU that I must ask – How long more must this disobedience and suffering continue? Are YOU still not yet awake? Do YOU still not care??”
(Today’s OXYGEN by Justus Teo)
Prayer: (adaptations from the Litany of Supplication)
Help us, free us, save us, deliver us, comfort us, give us hope and open us to Your Spirit, You O Lord:
Who inclines over our misery, Who gives his life for the flock he loves, From pride and the presumption that we can do without you, from the deceptions of fear and anguish, From unbelief and despair, From the incapacity to love, From all evils that afflict humanity, from disease, epidemics and fear of our brothers and sisters, From devastating folly, merciless interests and violence.
Look upon humanity, terrified by fear and anguish, upon the sick and dying, oppressed by loneliness. Upon doctors and health workers, overwhelmed by fatigue. In our hour of trial and confusion. If sin oppresses us, hate closes our hearts, suffering visits us, indifference distresses us and if death annihilates us.
Thanksgiving: Father, thank you for Pope Francis. And for assuring us that you do hear us, that you still care for us. We ask in the name of Your Son.
Thank you so much for this reflection. I, too (like most everyone) was enthralled with the words Pope Francis spoke and the manner he spoke and the setting. Your words brought it all back. Thank you.