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POPE’S MESSAGE | People have right to receive God’s word, so preach it well

VATICAN CITY — Everyone who attends Mass has the right to hear the word of God in all its fullness, which means it must be read and explained with "fervor," Pope Francis said at his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square Feb. 14.

The pope continued his series of audience talks on the Mass, underlining the importance of receiving "abundantly from the treasury of God's word" present in the Mass readings and the homily.

"Each one of us, when we go to Mass, we have the right to receive abundantly God's word, read well, well-spoken and then explained well in the homily ...(in a way that) knocks at the heart and changes hearts; it is a right," he said, adding that if the word isn't "preached with fervor," that deprives the faithful of their spiritual right to receive the word.

"The Lord speaks to everyone, pastors and the faithful," the pope said. "He knocks on the heart of all those who attend Mass, each one with their circumstances in life, age, situation. The Lord consoles, calls and draws forth buds of new and reconciled life."

After a period of silence following the homily, the congregation recites the creed, which shows the response of the community to what they have heard and received.

"There is a vital connection between listening and faith; they are united," he said. "Faith, in fact, does not come from the imagination of human minds. ... Faith is nourished then by listening (to Christ's word) and leads to the sacrament" of the Eucharist.

The creed is followed by the prayers of the faithful, formally called the "universal prayer" because "it embraces the needs of the Church and the world," he said, noting that universal prayers are offered for the Church, for those who govern, for those in need, for all of humanity and for the salvation of the entire world.

People must remember "what the Lord Jesus told us: 'If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.' But we don't believe this because we have little faith," the pope said. "Everything is possible to one who has faith.

The pope cited the words of the father of a boy who had spent his whole childhood possessed by an evil spirit: "I do believe, help my unbelief!"

"We, too, can tell the Lord, 'I believe but help my unbelief," the pope said

The assembly must offer prayers and give voice to "concrete needs of the Church community and the world" and avoid relying on formulaic or boilerplate and "short-sighted" requests, he said. 

Help people find healing in the wounds of Christ, pope tells priests

VATICAN CITY — A devotion to and meditation on the five wounds of Christ "may sound a bit medieval," but anyone who recognizes he or she is wounded will find mercy and healing in the passion of Christ, Pope Francis said.

Meeting Feb. 10 with members of the Stigmatine order, the pope distributed his prepared text and then spoke off the cuff about the significance of naming a religious order after the stigmata or wounds of Christ.

In his meditation of the wounds of Christ, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, the Cistercian who died in 1153, referred to Jesus as a "bag of mercy," who poured that mercy out on humanity through the crucifixion wounds to His hands, feet and side, the pope said. "The Lord's stigmata, the Lord's wounds, are precisely the door through which mercy comes."

"If I'm depressed, if I've sinned too much, if I've done this or that, I take refuge in the wounds of the Lord," the pope said, paraphrasing St. Bernard.

Forgiveness and healing, he said, come only from uniting one's wounds to those of Jesus.

People who do not recognize their own woundedness, the pope said, will never understand the power of the wounds of Christ.

"Only the recognition of being a wounded Church, a wounded order, a wounded soul or heart leads us to knock on the door of mercy in the wounds of Christ," he said.

The Bible states, "By His wounds you have been healed," the pope noted.

"And, as that beautiful prayer (the 'Anima Christi' or 'Soul of Christ') says, 'In your wounds hide me.' Hide me from my shame. Hide me from the wrath of the Father. Hide me from my misery. But in your wounds," he said.

The pope encouraged the Stigmatines to teach people that "we are all wounded" and that anyone wounded by sin will find "pardon, peace and consolation only in the wounds of the Lord."

— Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service 

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