A cold, indifferent heart “becomes hardened and insensitive, to everything and everyone, even to the tragic discarding of human life,” which we see today “in the rejection of so many immigrants, of countless unborn children and abandoned elderly people,” Pope Francis said during Mass in Marseille on Saturday, September 23.
By contrast, the Pope said, the hearts of those who truly believe in God and recognize His presence in the events of everyday life “leap for joy”: “Whoever prays, whoever welcomes the Lord leaps in the Spirit, feels that something is moving within, and ‘dances’ with joy”, as David danced before the Ark of the Covenant.
‘Leaping’ towards God and our neighbor
Continuing his focus on the Mother of God, which has been a defining characteristic of his visit to Marseille, Pope Francis insisted that the Blessed Virgin Mary is the true Ark of the Covenant. Her visit to Elizabeth, related in the Gospel, reveals God’s visitation to humanity, showing us that “God is setting out to seek us with love so that we might exult with joy.”
True faith, he continued, also encourages us to “leap toward our neighbour,” just as Mary set out immediately to assist Elizabeth when she learned that her relative had become pregnant in her old age.
The Pope reminded the faithful that God’s visitation is ordinarily experienced in “the simplicity of an encounter” with our brothers and sisters. In the Church, he said, we must remember that God is relational, and that we must learn to see Him in openness to others.
A new leap of faith, charity, and hope
He noted that the pluralism seen in European cities can be “a strong force against the excesses of individualism, selfishness, and rejection that generate loneliness and suffering.”
What is needed today, he said, in the life of the Church, of France, and of Europe, “is this: the grace to leap forward, a new leap in faith, charity, and hope. We need to rekindle our enthusiasm, to reawaken our desire to commit ourselves to fraternity… to risk loving our families and dare to love the weakest, and to rediscover in the Gospel that makes life beautiful.”
Encountering God in prayer, our neighbour in love
Pope Francis encouraged us to see the movement of faith in the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth, noting that God “inconveniences us, sets us in motion, and makes us leap.”
“We want to be Christians who encounter God in prayer, and our brothers and sisters in love”, he said, “Christians who leap, pulsate, and receive the fire of the Holy Spirit and then allow ourselves to be set afire by the questions of our day, by the challenges of the Mediterranean, by the cry of the poor – and by the ‘holy utopias’ of fraternity and peace that wait to be realized.”
The Pope concluded his homily with a prayer to Mary, Notre Dame de la Garde, asking her to watch over our lives, guard France and all of Europe, and “cause us to leap in the Spirit.”