Saturday, September 26, 2015

Pope In NYC - Reach Out To City's Forgotten Ones

The Pope concluded his day in New York yesterday with a Holy Mass for peace and justice in Madison Square Garden, a place synonymous with the city, as Francis recalled: “The site of important athletic, artistic and musical events” representing “both the variety and the common interests of so many different people”. It isa place where “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light”, as yesterday's reading from the prophet Isaiah tells. The Holy Father dedicated his homily to this light.

“The people who walked – caught up in their activities and routines, amid their successes and failures, their worries and expectations – have seen a great light”, affirmed the Pontiff, remarking that the People of God is invited in every historical age to contemplate this light, since one of the special qualities of the faithful is the capacity to see, amid the shadows, the light that Christ comes to bring. “With the prophet today we can say: the people that walks, breathes, lives amid the smog, has seen a great light, has experienced the air of life”.

“Living in a big city is not always easy”, commented the Pope. “A multicultural context presents many complex challenges. Yet big cities are a reminder of the hidden riches present in our world: in the diversity of its cultures, traditions and historical experiences. … Big cities bring together all the different ways which we human beings have discovered to express the meaning of life, wherever we may be. But big cities also conceal the faces of all those people who don’t appear to belong, or are second-class citizens. In big cities, beneath the roar of traffic, beneath 'the rapid pace of change', so many faces pass by unnoticed because they have no 'right' to be there, no right to be part of the city. They are the foreigners, the children who go without schooling, those deprived of medical insurance, the homeless, the forgotten elderly. These people stand at the edges of our great avenues, in our streets, in deafening anonymity. They become part of an urban landscape which is more and more taken for granted, in our eyes, and especially in our hearts”.

However, “knowing that Jesus still walks our streets, that he is part of the lives of his people, that he is involved with us in one vast history of salvation, fills us with … hope which liberates us from the forces pushing us to isolation and lack of concern for the lives of others, for the life of our city. … A hope which makes us see, even in the midst of smog, the presence of God as he continues to walk the streets of our city”.

“The prophet Isaiah can guide us in this process of 'learning to see'”, continued Francis. “He presents Jesus to us as 'Wonderful Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace'”. The Pope went on to explain each of these appellations.

“Wonderful Counsellor. The Gospels tell us how many people came up to Jesus to ask: 'Master, what must we do?' The first thing that Jesus does in response is to propose, to encourage, to motivate. He keeps telling his disciples to go, to go out. He urges them to go out and meet others where they really are, not where we think they should be. … The Mighty God: In Jesus, God himself became Emmanuel, God-with-us, the God who walks alongside us. ... The Everlasting Father: Go out and proclaim, go out and show that God is in your midst as a merciful Father who himself goes out, morning and evening, to see if his son has returned home and, as soon as he sees him coming, runs out to embrace him. … Prince of Peace: Go out to others and share the good news that God, our Father, walks at our side. He frees us from anonymity, from a life of emptiness and selfishness, and brings us to the school of encounter. He removes us from the fray of competition and self-absorption, and he opens before us the path of peace. That peace which is born of accepting others, that peace which fills our hearts whenever we look upon those in need as our brothers and sisters”.

“God is living in our cities. The Church is living in our cities, and she wants to be like leaven in the dough”, concluded Pope Francis. “She wants to relate to everyone, to stand at everyone’s side, as she proclaims the marvels of the Wonderful Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Eternal Father, the Prince of Peace. 'The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light'. And we ourselves are witnesses of that light”.

Today, 26 September, the Holy Father travels to Philadelphia where he will celebrate Mass with the clergy and religious of Pennsylvania in the Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul, attend a meeting with the Hispanic community and other immigrants in Independence National Historical Park, and will pronounce a discourse in Benjamin Franklin Parkway on the eve of the World Meeting of Families.

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