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Pope Francis urges Catholics to ‘search for the lost sheep’ at first general audience

By on Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Pope Francis is driven through the crowd at his first general audience (AP)

Pope Francis is driven through the crowd at his first general audience (AP)

Pope Francis encouraged Catholics to reach out to the “lost sheep” at the first general audience of his pontificate this morning.

According to the official English summary of his address, he said: “Dear Brothers and Sisters, On Palm Sunday we began Holy Week, the heart of the liturgical year, when we commemorate the great events that express most powerfully God’s loving plan for all men and women. Jesus enters Jerusalem in order to give himself completely. He gives us his body and his blood, and promises to remain with us always. He freely hands himself over to death in obedience to the Father’s will, and in this way shows how much he loves us.

“We are called to follow in his footsteps. Holy Week challenges us to step outside ourselves so as to attend to the needs of others: those who long for a sympathetic ear, those in need of comfort or help. We should not simply remain in our own secure world, that of the 99 sheep who never strayed from the fold, but we should go out, with Christ, in search of the one lost sheep, however far it may have wandered.

“Holy Week is not so much a time of sorrow, but rather a time to enter into Christ’s way of thinking and acting. It is a time of grace given us by the Lord so that we can move beyond a dull or mechanical way of living our faith, and instead open the doors of our hearts, our lives, our parishes, our movements or associations, going out in search of others so as to bring them the light and the joy of our faith in Christ.

He added: “Heartfelt greetings to the English-speaking pilgrims, especially the large group of university students taking part in the international UNIV Congress here in Rome. I extend a warm welcome to the pilgrims from England, Ireland, the Philippines and the United States of America. I invite all of you to enter fully into the spirit of Holy Week, following in the footsteps of Jesus and bringing the light of his love to everyone you meet. Happy Easter!”

Meanwhile, the Vatican announced today that Pope Francis will take possession of his cathedral, the Basilica of St John Lateran, on Sunday April 7 at 5:30pm local time.

Full text of the Pope’s general audience, translated by Vatican Radio:

Brothers and sisters, good morning!

I am pleased to welcome you to my first general audience. With deep gratitude and veneration I am taking up the “witness” from the hands of my beloved predecessor, Benedict XVI. After Easter we will resume the catechesis on the Year of Faith. Today I would like to focus a little on Holy Week. With Palm Sunday we began this week – the center of all the liturgical year – in which we accompany Jesus in His Passion, Death and Resurrection.

But does it mean for us to live Holy Week? What does it means to follow Jesus on his way to the Cross on Calvary and the Resurrection? In his earthly mission, Jesus walked the streets of the Holy Land; he called twelve simple people to remain with Him, to share his journey and continue His mission; He chose them among the people full of faith in the promises of God. He spoke to everyone, without distinction, to the great and the lowly; to the rich young man and the poor widow, the powerful and the weak; He brought the mercy and forgiveness of God to all; he healed, comforted, understood, gave hope, He led all to the presence of God who is interested in every man and woman, like a good father and a good mother is interested in each child. God did not wait for us to go to Him, but He moved towards us, without calculation, without measures. This is how God is : He is always the first, He moves towards us. Jesus lived the daily realities of most ordinary people: He was moved by the crowd that seemed a flock without a shepherd, and He cried in front of the suffering of Martha and Mary on the death of their brother Lazarus; he called a tax collector to be His disciple and also suffered the betrayal of a friend. In Christ, God has given us the assurance that He is with us, in our midst. ” Foxes – Jesus aid – have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head” (Mt 8:20). Jesus did not have a home because His house is the people, that us, His mission is to open all God’s doors, to be the loving presence of God.

In Holy Week we live the highest point of this journey, this loving plan that runs throughout the entire history of the relationship between God and humanity. Jesus enters Jerusalem to take the final step, in which His whole live is summarized: He gives himself totally, He keeps nothing for Himself, not even his life. At the Last Supper, with His friends, He shares the bread and distributes the cup “for us.” The Son of God is offered to us, He consigns His Body and his Blood into our hands to be with us always, to dwell among us. And on the Mount of Olives, as in the trial before Pilate, He puts up no resistance, He gifts Himself: He is the Suffering Servant foretold by Isaiah, who stripped himself unto death (cf. Is 53:12).

Jesus does not live this love that leads to sacrifice passively or as a fatal destiny; certainly He does not hide his deep human commotion in the face of a violent death, but He entrusts Himself with full confidence to the Father. Jesus voluntarily consigned Himself to death to respond to the love of God the Father, in perfect union with His will, to demonstrate His love for us. On the cross, Jesus “loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20). Each of us can say, “He loved me and gave himself for me.” Everyone can say that “for me”.

What does this mean for us? It means that this is my, your, our path. Living Holy Week following to Jesus not only with the emotions of the heart, living Holy Week following Jesus means learning how to come out of ourselves – as I said on Sunday – to reach out to others, to go to the outskirts of existence, to be the first to move towards our brothers and sisters, especially those who are most distant, those who are forgotten, those who are most in need of understanding, consolation and help. There is so much need to bring the living presence of Jesus, merciful and full of love!

Living Holy Week means increasingly entering into God’s logic, the logic of the Cross, which is not first of all that of pain and death, but of love and of self-giving that brings life. It means entering into the logic of the Gospel. Following, accompanying Christ, remaining with him requires an “stepping outside” stepping outside. Stepping outside of ourselves, of a tired and routine way of living the faith, of the temptation to withdraw into pre-established patterns that end up closing our horizon to the creative action of God. God stepped outside of Himself to come among us, He pitched His tent among us to bring the mercy of God that saves and gives hope. Even if we want to follow Him and stay with Him, we must not be content to remain in the enclosure of the ninety-nine sheep, we have to “step outside”, to search for the lost sheep together with Him, the one furthest away. Remember well: stepping outside of ourselves, like Jesus, like God has stepped outside of Himself in Jesus and Jesus stepped outside of Himself for.

Some might say to me, “But, Father, I have no time”, “I have so many things to do”, “it is difficult”, “what can I do with my little strength?”, with my sin, with so many things ? Often we settle for a few prayers, a distracted and inconsistent presence at Sunday Mass, a random act of charity, but we lack this courage to “step outside” to bring Christ. We are a bit like St. Peter. As soon as Jesus speaks of the Passion, Death and Resurrection, of self-giving, of love for all, the Apostle takes him aside and rebukes him. What Jesus says upsets his plans, seems unacceptable, undermines the sense of security that he had built up, his idea of ​​the Messiah. And Jesus looks at the disciples and addresses Peter with perhaps one of the strongest words of the Gospel: ” Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do”(Mk 8:33). God always thinks with mercy: do not forget this. God always thinks with mercy: our merciful Father. God thinks like a father who awaits the return of his child and goes to meet him, sees him come when he is still far away … What does this mean? That each and every day he went out to see if his son was coming home. This is our merciful Father. It is the sign that He was waiting for him from the terrace of is house; God thinks like the Samaritan that does not approach the victim to commiserate with him, or look the other way, but rescue him without asking for anything in return, without asking if he was Jew, if it was pagan, a Samaritan, rich or poor: he does not ask anything. He does not ask these things, he asks for nothing. He goes to his aid: This is how God thinks. God thinks like the shepherd who gives his life to defend and save his sheep.

Holy Week is a time of grace which the Lord gifts us to open the doors of our hearts, our lives, our parishes – what a pity, so many parishes are closed! – in our parishes, movements, associations, and to “step outside” towards others, to draw close to them so we can bring the light and joy of our faith. Always step outside yourself! And with the love and tenderness of God, with respect and patience, knowing that we put our hands, our feet, our hearts, but then it is God who guides them and makes all our actions fruitful.

May you all live these days well following the Lord with courage, carrying within a ray of His love for all those whom we meet.

  • Ruth _

    I’m so glad the Church through Pope Francis is offering the chance to see God once again.

  • Benedict Carter

    What? It didn’t before?

  • rosie

    may we be an example of our lord and may we start to look for that sheep that has been lost start with our self’s we may think that we are perfect but we may be the lost sheep .

  • ceecee

    KNOW THAT THE HOLY SPIRIT IS ALIVE AND AMONG US. No other explanation for our church having been blessed with Pope Francis and he will prayerfully clean up the mess that
    has caused so many to leave our faith. Shame on the hierarchy and priests, and bishops who are more concerned with running a business rather than running the harvest of souls for Our Lord. Oh well, what goes around comes around and in the U.S. the funds are getting tapped out due to the cover ups , the extravagant lifestyles and lack of the faith that the clergy try to convince us to have in their half hour homilies. then spend the rest of the week figuring ways to collect more money. Jesus sure didn’t give it a second thought on what he would eat or where he would sleep and His message is still delivered thousand years later. Hmmm, kinda like Mother
    Theresa’s faith she went about and did her thing and her order has blossomed all over the world. How great that some truly have FAITH……………….

  • $27740841

    The problem with searching for the lost sheep isn’t that they are hard to find, or that it is difficult to interest them in Catholicism, or that it is difficult to encourage them to step inside a Catholic church. A suprising number of people are open to this kind of exploration.
    The problem is the dreary Vatican II liturgy that they enounter and the lack of sound, Catholic teaching. I have witnessed numbers of people fall away from the Church once inside. Searching for the lost sheep is an excellent idea. But how does the Church stop them straying again?

  • Benedict Carter

    Couldn’t agree more. The “dreary Vatican II liturgy” you allude to is not only “dreary”, it ain’t Catholic either.


    You really do need to see your GP……..

  • Convert

    You can’t prevent people from straying from the Church. It’s freewill. What might help is if more Catholics spoke more positively about the Church. One important avenue of help is prayer.

  • Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

    BISHOPS MUST TURN THEMSELVES INTO ACTIVE APOSTLES, AND CEASE TO BE MERE BISHOPS or every thing is going to be lost and they will be held responsible.

    The APPOINTMENT to this office should look for the QUALITY OF APOSTLESHIP, their character, their history and value systems.

    MERE CLEVER MEN will not make APOSTLES.

    Thomas Poovatinkal SSP

  • Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

    DOING what Jesus the Lord asked us to do is the most important thing to occupy our time and energy. Then all other things will come on their own.

    Regular reading to MEDITATE on the WORD of the LORD is the secret of FAITH growing Inspiration guiding us to do the Lord’s WORK. Company of LIVING APOSTLES helps more than anything else perhaps.

    Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

  • Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

    ONLY TRUE LIVING APOSTLES can speak or PROCLAIM in relevant categories which will appeal to present day women and men convicting them of sin and thus inspire them to enter the Kingdom of God which Jesus the Lord brought to us.

    Lets us pray for our all our Leaders in the Church that they get this grace from Jesus the Lord.

    Too much running around, doing too many things like Martha can make us empty vessels.

    The APOSTLES brought in Decons to do some kind of Work and reserved their precious time and energy for the Lord and his work of Proclamation of SALVATION through the WORD Proclaimed by them as directed by the Lord himself.

    Thomas Poovathinkal SSP

  • Julian Lord

    I actually disagree, though there’s much truth in your comments notwithstanding.

    Our own parish provides rich, faithful liturgy (of the Novus Ordo variety), devoid of any of the all too common dumbing-down of the liturgy that one can encounter in other parts of the world ; and our catechists and Catholic schools provide the best catechesis possible, in the face of the wandering attention span of the youngsters in their charge and care ; and the parish church is jam-packed every Sunday, our congregation being a healthy mix of every generation, including dozens of children.

    But the underlying issue remains — very few of the adults who are faithfully attending Mass every Sunday seem to have any meaningful engagement with religious life beyond this Mass attendance, and sending their children to catechesis.

    The issue is that they come into the Mass as a group of disconnected strangers, and although everyone partakes of the worship, sacrifice, penitence, and Eucharist, so that we are one in our Faith and our Religion, at the end everyone simply drifts off again as strangers.

    Nobody in the parish council etc seems to think that these people too need to be specifically evangelised to (though our previous parish curate most certainly did think so), and especially cared towards, to create a greater sense of Christian community and friendship.

    Instead, we have the members of the parish council, the catechists, members of the choir and so on forming their own little social clique, that only a handful of others in our congregation ever partake of in any way whatsoever (including me, but this is only because as a convert, having partaken of the initiation rites in the parish church, I have a kind of “honorary membership” in the little club).

    And this is NOT a problem that’s specific to this or that parish only ; no, it’s something that I’ve seen widespread throughout the universal Church, whether in France, Spain, or Italy (and IIRC the UK, but I’ve been away so long, I’m not sure of my memories on this question, particularly as I was a non-Christian at the time).

    Now, of course it’s not really the job of the priest to focus on anything like community sharing during the Liturgy of the Holy Mass — it’s not a community feast that’s being celebrated !!! — nevertheless, if those towards the back of the congregation are participating in the Liturgy as strangers among strangers, are we to be surprised that there is NO outreach whatsoever towards those not attending Mass regularly, or perhaps not even baptised ???

    So I don’t think that it’s a defect of Liturgy or a defect of catechism that causes these problems, as they also exist in those places where sound Liturgy and sound catechism are provided (though of course both defects will be liable to aggravate these problems) — it’s a lack of Evangelisation, and a lack of Charity into the broader social community that we belong to as Catholics.

  • $27740841

    You really need to do some research.

  • Erin Pascal

    Very good read! Let’s be a good example for others first and do them good. Let’s carry God’s love anywhere and show this love to the people that we meet. Thank you for sharing this amazing article to us. May God bless you.

  • Peter

    As Cardinal Bergoglio, the Holy Father told the other cardinals before the Concvlave that “there are two images of the Church, the evangelising Church that comes out of herself……and the worldly Church that lives within herself, of herself, for herself”.

    He says that this latter Church “believes that she has her own light” and “gives way to that very great evil which is spiritual worldliness” where she lives to give glory only to herself.

    We see many example of this on these blogs.

    Thankfully the Holy Father will shatter that sclerotic mould.

  • Peter

    It seems that the CH have written a separate article about it.

  • Peter

    “Shame on the hierarchy and priests, and bishops who are more concerned with running a business rather than running the harvest of souls for Our Lord” and who “spend the rest of the week figuring ways to collect more money.”

    You cannot imagine how true that is.

  • Benedict Carter

    Amen to that.

  • scary goat

    Our parish is a pretty traditional mainstream parish (although this evening’s homily was all about how humble Pope Francis is)….sigh….but we’re a pretty friendly bunch…people are kind and go out of their way to help strangers/newcomers and we have various social groups and events. Having been to a TLM a few times…some things are starting to bug me about the NO, although the NO is celebrated quite nicely in our parish. I long to see the priest facing the Altar for a start. That is really starting to grate on me.

  • Julian Lord

    Well, the arguments about ad orientem and ad populum have been ongoing since Antiquity —

    The ad populum posture should at the very least concerns those parts of the Liturgy where the priest is instructing or otherwise addressing the people.

    The ad orientem posture is actually three separate postures, using the same descriptive phrase.

    a) Eastwards — this refers to the geographical east, rather than to the location of the tabernacle ; it is, for example, the posture that theoretically *must* be used at a Dawn Mass following an all-night Easter Vigil, upon the rising of the Sun. If the church is oriented North-South — the congregation faces East, NOT towards the altar or tabernacle.

    b) Towards the tabernacle — until the consecration of the Essences, the Lord is present in the tabernacle. Acts of worship should normally therefore be directed to that tabernacle.

    c) Towards the consecrated host or the Act of consecration itself — this is the confusing part ; when the Essences have been or are being consecrated, the Lord is present therein, rather than in the tabernacle. So, a priest will face the Flesh and Blood, regardless of whether he is on one side of the altar or the other.

    I can certainly see, therefore, that in the introductory parts of the Liturgy, and in those parts of the Liturgy of the Word where worship rather than instruction are provided, it’s easily arguable that the priest should direct his own worship to the tabernacle — which would not forbid ad populum in other parts of the Mass, nor seemingly facing “the people” (but in fact, facing the Real Presence) during consecration and Communion.

  • Dr Falk

    I agree Ruth. Many people are sensing a new call for the Church to kindness, humility and compassion through Pope Francis. I remember when John Paul 1st was elected in 1978 – his kind smiling humble nature shone through and touched the world – there was the same sense then as now.

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