He began his Holy Thursday homily reminding his brother priests that everything he proclaims, and all priests proclaim, is good news, and that, “Like Jesus, the priest makes the message joyful with his entire person.”
In the Little Things
“When he preaches – briefly, if possible! –, he does so with the joy that touches people’s hearts with that same word with which the Lord has touched his own heart in prayer.”
“As we all know,” the Argentine Pontiff continued, “it is in the little things that joy is best seen and shared: when by taking one small step, we make God’s mercy overflow in situations of desolation; when we decide to pick up the phone and arrange to see someone; when we patiently allow others to take up our time…
Message of Joy
While recognizing that the phrase “good news” might appear as just another way of saying “the Gospel,” Francis clarified that those words point to something essential: the joy of the Gospel. The Gospel, he stated, is good news because it is, in essence, a message of joy.
The good news, Francis highlighted, is not a thing, but a mission, and is born of Anointing.
“Jesus’ first “great priestly anointing” took place, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the womb of Mary. The good news of the Annunciation inspired the Virgin Mother to sing her Magnificat. It filled the heart of Joseph, her spouse, with sacred silence, and it made John leap for joy in the womb of Elizabeth, his mother.” …
“I say “joys” in the plural, for they are many and varied, depending on how the Spirit chooses to communicate them, in every age, to every person and in every culture. They need to be poured into new wineskins, the ones the Lord speaks of in expressing the newness of his message.”
The Pontiff went on to share with his brother priests three images or icons of those new wineskins in which the good news is kept fresh.
1) The Virgin Mary at Cana (stone water jars)A first icon of the good news would be the stone water jars at the wedding feast of Cana (cf. Jn 2:6). In one way, they clearly reflect that perfect vessel which is Our Lady herself, the Virgin Mary.
The Gospel tells us that the servants “filled them up to the brim” (Jn 2:7). I can imagine one of those servants looking to Mary to see if that was enough, and Mary signaling to add one more painful. Mary is the new wineskin brimming with contagious joy.
“Without her, dear priests, we cannot move forward in our priesthood! She is “the handmaid of the Father who sings his praises” (Evangelii Gaudium, 286), Our Lady of Prompt Succour, who, after conceiving in her immaculate womb the Word of life, goes out to visit and assist her cousin Elizabeth.
Her “contagious fullness” helps us overcome the temptation of fear, the temptation to keep ourselves from being filled to the brim and even overflowing, the temptation to a faint-heartedness that holds us back from going forth to fill others with joy. This cannot be, for “the joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus” (ibid., 1)
2) Inclusive Concreteness (jug with wooden ladle)A second icon of the good news that I would like to share with you today is the jug with its wooden ladle that the Samaritan woman carried on her head in the midday sun (cf. Jn 4:5-30). It speaks to us of something crucial: the importance of concrete situations.
The Lord gave us another new vessel or wineskin full of this “inclusive concreteness” in that Samaritan soul who was Mother Teresa. He called to her and told her: “I am thirsty”. He said: “My child, come, take me to the hovels of the poor. Come, be my light. I cannot do this alone. They do not know me, and that is why they do not love me. Bring me to them”. Mother Teresa, starting with one concrete person, thanks to her smile and her way of touching their wounds, brought the good news to all.
The way we touch wounds with our hands, our priestly way of caressing the sick and those who have lost hope. The priest must be a man of tender love. Concreteness and tenderness!
3) The Lord’s Pierced HeartThe third icon of the good news is the fathomless vessel of the Lord’s pierced heart: his utter meekness, humility and poverty which draw all people to himself. From him, we have to learn that announcing a great joy to the poor can only be done in a respectful, humble, and even humbling, way.
For priests to carry out joyful evangelization, the Pope stressed, they must always be concrete, tender and humble. “The Spirit,” he noted, “tells us in every situation what we need to say to our enemies (cf. Mt 10:19), and at those times he illumines our every small step forward. This meekness and integrity gives joy to the poor, revives sinners, and grants relief to those oppressed by the devil.”
Pope Francis concluded, saying, “Dear priests, as we contemplate and drink from these three new wineskins, may the good news find in us that “contagious fullness” which Our Lady radiates with her whole being, the “inclusive concreteness” of the story of the Samaritan woman, and the “utter meekness” whereby the Holy Spirit ceaselessly wells up and flows forth from the pierced heart of Jesus our Lord.”