Pope Francis, following yesterday's fast and prayer vigil for peace in Syria, the Middle East and all over the world, returned to the theme of peace during the Angelus at midday today. He commented on today's Gospel reading in which Jesus states the condition for his disciples: to put nothing before their love for Him, carrying their cross, and following him.
The Holy Father explained that many people approached Jesus, especially in the wake of some prodigious dream, that indicated Him as the Messiah, the King of Israel. But Jesus knows that in Jerusalem the cross awaits Him and does not wish to create illusions; he knows that the path will lead him to sacrifice Himself for the redemption of our sins. “Following Jesus does not mean taking part in a triumphal parade!” the Pope said. “It means sharing in His merciful love, becoming part of His great mission of mercy towards each and every man. … And this universal forgiveness, this mercy, comes through the cross. Jesus does not want to carry out this mission alone: He wants to involve us too, in the mission that the Father entrusted to Him. ... A disciple of Jesus gives up all his or her goods, because he or she has found in Him the greatest Good, within which every other asset receives its true worth and meaning: family relations, other relationships, work, cultural and economic wealth, and so forth”.
To explain his demand, Jesus uses the parable of the king who, before leaving to go to war, would surely first sit down and consider whether with ten thousand men he could stand up to his adversary, who was advancing against him with twenty thousand? If not, then while the other king was still a long way off, he would send envoys to sue for peace. “Here Jesus doesn’t want to discuss war – it is only a parable” commented the Holy Father. “But at this moment in time, when we are praying intensely for peace, this Word of the Lord affects us profoundly, and fundamentally it says: there’s a deeper war we must fight, all of us! It is the strong and brave decision to renounce evil and its seductions, and to choose good, fully prepared to pay personally: that is, following Christ, and taking up our cross! It is a profound war against evil! What is the point of fighting wars, many wars, if you are not capable of fighting this deeper war against evil? There’s no point!”
He continued, “This war against evil means saying no to fratricidal hatred, and to the lies that it uses; saying no to violence in all its forms; saying no to the proliferation of arms and their sale on the black market. There are so many of them! And the doubt always remains: this war over there, this other war over there – because there are wars everywhere – is it really a war over problems, or is it a commercial war, to sell these arms on the black market? These are the enemies we must fight, united and coherent, following no other interests but those of peace and of the common good”.
The Pope concluded by mentioning that today we remember the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, a celebration particularly beloved by the Oriental Churches. “All of us, now, can send our warm greetings to all the brothers, sisters, bishops, monks, nuns of the Oriental Churches, Orthodox and Catholic. … Jesus is the sun, Mary is the first light that announces its dawning. Yesterday evening we kept vigil, calling on Her intercession in our prayer for peace in the world, especially in Syria and in the whole of the Middle East. We invoke Her now as Queen of Peace. Queen of Peace, pray for us!”