By Reyanna Rice, August 24, 2014
In preparing for my upcoming adventure in Italy in October, I have been teaching myself Italian. I exercise it by translating homilies and addresses of Pope Francis, pulling them off the Vatican website. I just finished translating Francis’ Angelus address for today. He always bases what he says at the Angelus on the Sunday’s Gospel reading. I found what I was translating, as it rolled out, kind of mind blowing, given today’s Gospel reading and the fact that besides Bishop of Rome, the man’s other title is Pope and what that Gospel reading has historically been used for in relation to that office. I find it telling us something profound about what the current office holder is thinking about his role and our role. Below is my best translation:
“Dear Brothers and Sisters:
In this Sunday’s Gospel is the celebrated passage central in the account of Matthew, in which Simon, a name of the Twelve, professes his faith in Jesus as “The Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus calls Simon “blessed” for his faith, recognizing in it a special gift of the Father, and he says “You are Peter and on this rock, I will build my Church”
Let’s take just a moment on this point, on the fact that Jesus attributes to Simon this new name: “Peter”, that in the language of Jesus sounds like “Kefa”, a word that means “rock”. In the Bible this term “rock”, refers to God. Jesus attributes it to Simon not for his quality or his human merits, but for his genuine and firm faith that comes from above.
Jesus feels in his heart a great joy because he recognizes in Simon the hand of the Father, the action of the Holy Spirit. He recognizes that God the Father has given Simon a “reliable” faith, on which he, Jesus, can build his Church, that is his community, that is all of us….all of us. Jesus has in mind giving life to “his” church, a people founded not so much on offspring, but on faith, namely on the relationship with Jesus himself, on a relationship of love and trust. Our relationship with Jesus builds the Church. Jesus needs to find in his disciples a solid faith, a “reliable” faith. It is this he must verify at this point of the journey. The Lord has in mind the image of building, the image of community as an edifice. That’s why when he hears the profession of frank faith of Simon he calls him “rock”, and shows his intention of building his church on this faith.
Brothers and sisters, that which occurred in a unique way in St. Peter, occurs also in each Christian who matures a sincere faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. Today’s Gospel challenges each of us. How goes your faith? Each of us give the answer in your own heart. How goes your faith? What does the Lord find in your heart? A heart firm as Peter’s or a sandy heart, that is doubtful, wary, unbelieving: It does us good every day to think about this. If the Lord finds in our heart a, I do not say perfect, but sincere, genuine faith, then he sees also in us that of rock with which he can build his community. Of this community the ultimate rock is Christ, the cornerstone and unique. For his part Peter is the rock, as the visible foundation of the unity of the Church, but every baptized person is called to give to Jesus their own faith, poor but sincere, so that the Lord can continue to build his Church, today, in every part of the world.
Also in our day, many people think that Jesus is a great prophet, a master of wisdom, a model of justice…And also today, Jesus asks his disciples, that is all of us, “Who do you say that I am?” What do you answer? Think about it. But above all pray to God the Father, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary; pray that He gives us the grace to answer with a sincere heart “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This is a confession of faith, this is the only “credo”. Let’s repeat together three times “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” ” (He and the crowd in the square repeat this three times)
The last paragraph has the trademark Francis reference to the Virgin Mary….he always brings in a reference to her. It also has one of his other frequent trademarks when addressing a large crowd: “Let’s say together…” But what is truly interesting with this talk was no reference to traditional images of loosing and binding, the power of the church, the gates of hell or the role of the papacy, except “Peter as a visible sign of unity.” The references to “all of us” and it is our faith that has built and continues to build the church, “tutti di noi” (all of us), I find very telling and hopeful. I think people really need to pay attention to what this man is saying, all of what he is saying and not just news clips here and there. You don’t get a clear vision of what he is thinking from just sound bytes. And you need to consistently follow what he is saying to see where his vision is going. You also need to watch his actions. Sometimes his actions say more than his words especially in regards to what WE should be doing.