Two months in Santa Marta
Reflection on the contents of the homilies in Santa Marta during the lockdown
There were 64 Eucharistic celebrations of the Bishop of Rome broadcast live from the chapel of Santa Marta, from 9 March to 17 May 2020.
By his explicit will, these celebrations, which from the beginning of his ministry have made a family meeting with a small number of faithful who have taken part in them (thousands in recent years) and which he had never wanted to make public in an integral and direct, were instead open in this period to all those who wanted to take part through the streaming link transmitted by the Vatican media to the various networks connected with them.
In this way, the Pope intended to show his closeness “to the sick of this coronavirus epidemic, for doctors, nurses, volunteers who help so much, family members, for the elderly who are in retirement homes, for prisoners who they are locked up »¹.
This appointment, which coincided with a significant time such as the one that the liturgy proposes every year with the Lenten journey first and then with Easter, was shared in a context as critical as it was unexpected as that of the pandemic and the consequent forced isolation due to the lockdown. .
Starting from a specific context such as that of the homilies that explain the biblical readings of the Eucharistic liturgy, Francis transmitted many contents, indications, suggestions and exhortations, which were received and appreciated not only by those who connected on the network or via TV. Live but also from those who became aware of it thanks to the media and the news that in those days reported some reflections transmitted by Santa Marta.
Let’s try to take up some of these passages that we believe are important to welcome and develop.
What were the most popular topics in these two months in Santa Marta?
Scrolling through all the homilies we found the words that appeared in more than one homily and we recorded 106 items among them.
The terms that appear most – leaving aside the names: Son, Father and Holy Spirit – are the words devil (in nine homilies), Church (10), Law (10), sin (12), heart (16), people of God (17); we have also joined the words faith, trust, fidelity, believe, trust, noting their recurrence in 21 homilies.
What are the indications that emerge for those who live the commitment of faith?
Faith must be transmitted, offered but without falling into the temptation of any proselytism: the ways are witness and service; the garment that of humility. Every proselytism leads to corruption².
Regarding the implementation of the testimony of faith, Francis asserts:
You can make a hospital, an educational structure of great perfection, of great development, but if a structure is without Christian witness, your work there will not be a witness work, a work of true preaching of Jesus: it will be a charity, very good – very good! – but nothing more³.
These words seem a response to all those who accuse the bishop of Rome of promoting a vision that would neglect the primacy of faith with the Church’s proposal as a “field hospital”. Francis invites us to be cautious and to base the commitment to preach the faith on the binomial witness and prayer.
Faith is characterized in the concreteness that is outlined in its various aspects: the concreteness of truth, the concreteness of humility, the grace of simplicity⁴.
Service is the peculiar trait present in the “identity card” of the follower of Jesus and it is this style that leads to building and building according to the call of election, as transmitted in the homily on Tuesday of Holy Week. Perseverance in service is fundamental⁵.
The biblical concepts of election, promise and covenant are recalled in the homily of April 2⁶.
Francis also states: woe to the hypocrites and the corrupt. God indeed
he does not forgive the corrupt, simply because the corrupt is unable to ask for forgiveness, he has gone further. He is tired … no, he is not tired: he is not capable. Corruption has also taken away from him that capacity we all have to be ashamed, to ask for forgiveness. No, the corrupt is sure, he goes on, destroys, exploits people, like this woman, everything, everything… goes on. He put himself in God’s place.
One of the most deleterious and destructive attitudes, opposed to the Gospel message, is that of murmuring, complaining, chattering, which becomes a real social lynching, going so far as to overturn the truth with slander and false news that, if spread, drag the masses, also resulting in forms of bloody violence.
In addition to the examples of Jesus and Stephen and the Christian martyrs of every age, we have the contemporary drama of the Holocaust.
Faced with this lethal situation, which is characterized by a destructive persistence, the example transmitted to us by Jesus is that of the courage to be silent: to oppose fury only with silence, never with justification.
Human abuse does not stop at the murmuring and fury that leads to physical violence but are tragically actualized by every form of injustice that goes beyond individual societies to take on universal dimensions.
Masterful in this regard is the homily on Holy Wednesday with the reading of the betrayal alongside the sale of our neighbor.
When we think of selling people, the trade made with slaves from Africa to bring them to America comes to mind – an old thing – then the trade, for example, of Yazidi girls sold to Daesh: but it is a distant thing, it is one thing … Even today people are sold. Everyday. There are Judas who sell their brothers and sisters: exploiting them in their work, not paying the right, not recognizing their duties… Indeed, they often sell the most expensive things. I think that in order to be more comfortable a man is able to push his parents away and not see them anymore; keep them safe in a nursing home and not go see them… he sells them. There is a very common saying that, speaking of people like that, says that “this is capable of selling one’s mother”: and they sell her. Now they are calm, they are removed: “You take care of them …”.
Today human trade is like in the early days: it is done. Why is this? Why: Jesus said it. He gave money a lord. Jesus said: “God and money cannot be served” (cf. Lk 16:13), two gentlemen. It is the only thing that Jesus raises up and each of us must choose: o serve God, and you will be free in adoration and service; or serve money, and you will be a slave to money. This is the option; and many people want to serve God and money. And this cannot be done. In the end they pretend to serve God to serve money. It is the hidden exploiters who are socially impeccable, but under the table they do business, even with people: it doesn’t matter. Human exploitation is selling your neighbor … there is a step to steal to betray, little one. Those who love money too much cheat to get more, always: it’s a rule, it’s a fact¹⁰.
Just think of the injustices that deny human dignity by imposing working conditions that are real situations of slavery¹¹.
The homily of April 6 touches the conscience:
This story of the unfaithful administrator is always current, there always are, even at a high level: let’s think of some charity or humanitarian organizations that have many employees, many, who have a very rich structure of people and in the end it reaches the forty percent poor, because sixty is to pay the salary of so many people. It is a way of taking money from the poor. But the answer is Jesus. And here I want to stop: “You have the poor always with you” (Jn 12: 8). This is a truth: “In fact, you always have the poor with you”. The poor are there. There are many: there is the poor we see, but this is the smallest part; the great number of the poor are those we do not see: the hidden poor. And we don’t see them because we enter this culture of indifference that is negationist and we deny: “No, no, there aren’t many, they can’t be seen; yes, that case… ”, always diminishing the reality of the poor. But there are many, many.
Or even, if we do not enter this culture of indifference, there is a habit of seeing the poor as ornaments of a city: yes, there are, like statues; yes, there are, they can be seen; yes, that old woman who begs for alms, the other one … But as if it were a normal thing. It is part of the city’s ornamentation to have poor people. But the great majority are the poor victims of economic policies, of financial policies. Some recent statistics summarize this as follows: there is a lot of money in the hands of a few and a lot of poverty in many, many. And this is the poverty of so many people who are victims of the structural injustice of the world economy. And there are many poor people who feel ashamed to show that they don’t make it to the end of the month; many poor middle-class people who secretly go to Caritas and secretly ask and feel ashamed. The poor are much more [numerous] than the rich; very, very much… And what Jesus says is true: “In fact, you always have the poor with you”. But do I see them? Do I notice this reality? Especially of the hidden reality, those who are ashamed to say they don’t make it to the end of the month¹².
The willingness to participate in the suffering of those who have been hit by this pandemic¹³, must open our reflection on the brothers who are suffering from many other pandemics such as that of world hunger¹⁴.
May this pandemic experience therefore become an opportunity to redefine our options and not fall back into what is called nostalgia for the sepulcher:
Even today, in front of the next – we hope it will be soon – the next end of this pandemic, there is the same option: either our bet will be for life, for the resurrection of peoples or it will be for the god of money: to return to the tomb of hunger, slavery, wars, arms factories, children without education… there is the sepulcher¹⁵.
Undoubtedly, that of the pandemic is an experience of social crisis, like many other times of crisis: marriages, families, work. How to react in times of crisis?
In my land there is a saying that says: “When you go on horseback and you have to cross a river, please don’t change horse in the middle of the river”. […] It is the moment of fidelity, of fidelity to God, of fidelity to the things [decisions] that we have taken from before. It is also the moment of conversion, because this fidelity, yes, will inspire us to change for the good, not to distance us from the good¹⁶.
What is the role of the people of God, a more common term, perhaps not surprisingly, in these homilies a
Christianity is not just an ethics, it is not just an elite of people chosen to bear witness to the faith.
The believer must experience the sense of smell and experience the memory of belonging to the people of God. Acquire a conscience
When this is lacking, there are dogmatisms, moralisms, ethics, elitist movements. The people are missing¹⁷.
One of the images that will remain most impressed in this cycle of homilies is that of the Church as a river in which all the different currents have the right to be present.
We believe this to be an assertion made in response to all those who claim claims to the limits of the schism or complain about the impossibility of cohabitation of different souls, traditionalist or progressive.
Here Francis continues to recall that the work of division, of fragmentation between parties (I am Paul’s, I am Apollo’s …) presents itself as a real disease for the Church.
The Church is like a river, you know? Some are more on this side, some on the other side, but the important thing is that everyone is inside the river “. This is the unity of the Church. Nobody outside, everyone inside. Then, with the peculiarities: this does not divide, it is not ideology, it is legitimate. But why does the Church have this breadth of river? It is because the Lord wants it so¹⁸.
We close this range of quotations with the significant homily of March 18 in which Francis reminds us that
Our God is the God of closeness, he is a God who walks with his people. […] Man rejects God’s closeness, he wants to be the master of relationships and closeness always brings with it some weakness. [ …] The “God near” becomes weak, and the closer he gets, the weaker he seems […]
Our God is close and he asks us to be close to each other, not to stray from one another. And in this moment of crisis due to the pandemic we are experiencing, this closeness asks us to show it more, to show it more. We cannot, perhaps, physically approach us for fear of contagion, but we can awaken in us an attitude of closeness between us: with prayer, with help, many ways of closeness. And why do we have to be close to each other? Because our God is near, he wanted to accompany us in life. He is the God of proximity. For this reason, we are not isolated people: we are close, because the inheritance we have received from the Lord is proximity, that is, the gesture of closeness¹⁹.
A few months after the beginning of the pandemic, rereading Francis’s words is a precious opportunity to make sense of the events and encourage everyone to build a better world.
1 Vatican News, The closeness of the Pope: Mass of Santa Marta live every day, at https://www.vaticannews.va/it/papa/news/2020-03/coronavirus-papa-francesco-messa-santa-marta -every-day.html
2 See FRANCIS, Faith must be transmitted, it must be offered, especially with witness, 25 April 2020, in http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/it/cotidie/2020/documents/papa-francesco-cotidie_20200425_testimoniare -lafede-conlavita.html
3 ID., Without testimony and prayer it is not possible to do apostolic preaching, April 30, 2020, at http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/it/cotidie/2020/documents/papa-francesco-cotidie_20200430_testimonianza-e- prayer.html
4 See ID., The concreteness and simplicity of the little ones, 29 April 2020, in http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/it/cotidie/2020/documents/papa-francesco-cotidie_20200429_laconcretezza-dellaverita.html
5 See ID., Persevere in the service, 7 April 2020, in http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/it/cotidie/2020/documents/papa-francesco-cotidie_20200407_perseverare-nelservizio.html
6 See ID., The three dimensions of Christian life: election, promise, covenant, April 2, 2020, in http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/it/cotidie/2020/documents/papa-francesco- cotidie_20200402_letre-dimensions-of-life.html
7 ID., Trust in God’s mercy, March 30, 2020, in http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/it/cotidie/2020/documents/papa-francesco-cotidie_20200330_pregare-peril-perdono.html
8 See ID., The little daily lynching of chatter, 28 April 2020, at http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/it/cotidie/2020/documents/papa-francesco-cotidie_20200428_laverita-dellatestimonianza.html
9 See ID., The courage to be silent, 27 March 2020, in http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/it/cotidie/2020/documents/papa-francesco-cotidie_20200327_ilcoraggio-ditacere.html
10 ID., Judas, where are you ?, 8 April 2020, in http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/it/cotidie/2020/documents/papa-francesco-cotidie_20200408_tra-lealta-e-interesse.html
11 Cf. ID., Work is the vocation of man, 1 May 2020, in http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/it/cotidie/2020/documents/papa-francesco-cotidie_20200501_illavoro-primavocazione- of man.html
12 ID., Looking for Jesus in the poor, 6 April 2020, in http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/it/cotidie/2020/documents/papa-francesco-cotidie_20200406_la-poverta-nascosta.html
13 See ID., Sunday of tears, 29 March 2020, in http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/it/cotidie/2020/documents/papa-francesco-cotidie_20200329_lagrazia-dipiangere.html
14 See ID., Day of brotherhood, day of penance and prayer, May 14, 2020, in http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/it/cotidie/2020/documents/papa-francesco-cotidie_20200514_giornodi-fratellanza – penance-prayer.html
15 ID., Choose the announcement so as not to fall into our tombs, 13 April 2020, at http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/it/cotidie/2020/documents/papa-francesco-cotidie_20200413_annunciare-cristo- vivoerisorto.html
16 ID., Learning to live moments of crisis, 2 May 2020, in http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/it/cotidie/2020/documents/papa-francesco-cotidie_20200502_lecrisi-occasioni-diconversione.html
17 ID., To be Christian is to belong to the people of God, 7 May 2020, in http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/it/cotidie/2020/documents/papa-francesco-cotidie_20200507_consapevoli-diessere-popolodidio. html
18 ID., We all have one Shepherd: Jesus, 4 May 2020, at http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/it/cotidie/2020/documents/papa-francesco-cotidie_20200504_cristo-unicopastore.html
19 ID., Our God is close and asks us to be close to each other, March 18, 2020, in http://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/it/cotidie/2020/documents/papa -francesco-cotidie_20200318_pergli-operatorisanitari.html