As some may have noticed, I am overall very disappointed in our present pope. I cannot stress enough how much that hurts me to have to admit that, to be distressed by what I can only believe is a problem in the making for the Church, for the harm that can be and is being done to Catholics, and also those who are not but have still looked to the pope and the Church for moral guidance. Despite the very problematic views and statements that Pope Francis has given us over the last two years, every once in a while he does give us the truth about the Faith and even its right practice. Sometimes that even comes, so it appears, right from him and is not written by others. He did so today in his homily.
According to a report from Asia News, Pope Francis spoke of the necessity of contemplative prayer and how we need to find time every day to enter into this form of prayer, in addition to our vocal and structured prayer. One way we can do this is through the reading of the Gospels for ten or fifteen minutes. Doing so, we encounter the memory and hope of Jesus.
He said: “‘How do I contemplate with today’s Gospel? I see that Jesus was in the middle of the people, he was surrounded by a large crowd. Five times this passage uses the word ‘crowd’. Did Jesus never rest? This would lead me to think: ‘Always with the crowd …’. Most of Jesus’ life was on the streets, with the crowd. Did he never rest? Yes, once, says the Gospel, he was sleeping on the boat but the storm came and the disciples woke him. Jesus was constantly in the midst of the people. And this is how we look at Jesus, contemplate Jesus, imagine Jesus. And so I tell Jesus what comes to my mind to tell him”.
Continuing his reflection on today’s Gospel, Pope Francis spoke of how Jesus realizes that a sick woman in the crowd touched him. Jesus, the Pope said, “not only understands the crowd, he feels the crowd”, “he feels the heartbeat of each of us, everyone. He cares for each and every one of us, always!”.
The case of the chief of the synagogue who goes “to speak to him of his daughter who was seriously ill” is similar: [Jesus] leaves everything to takes care of the matter. The Pope went on to depict the scene: Jesus arrives in the home, the women are crying because the little girl is dead, but the Lord tells them to be calm and they deride him. Here, the Pope said, we see “the patience of Jesus.”
And then after the resurrection of the child, instead of saying “Praise be God!”, Jesus tells them: “Please give her something to eat”. Pope Francis noted “Jesus always thinks of the little things.”
The Pope then pointed out “What I have just done with this Gospel is a prayer of contemplation: take up the Gospel, read and imagine the scene, imagine what happens and talk to Jesus, from the heart”:
“And with this we allow hope to grow, because we have fixed, we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. We should all carry out this contemplative prayer. ‘But I have so much to do!’. At home, 15 minutes, pick up the Gospel, a small passage, imagine what happened and talk with Jesus about it. So your gaze will be fixed on Jesus and not so much on a TV soap opera, for example. Your ears will be focused on the words of Jesus and not so much on your neighborhood gossip … “.
“This is how contemplative prayer helps us in hope. Living the substance of the Gospel. Pray always”.
I have done and do this myself with the Gospel and also with other Scriptural passages. Doing this, I fell in love with the Gospel of Saint John and came to a deep and profound understanding of the Eucharist, particularly as I sat in Adoration in His presence and read Chapter Six. I have even memorized the first several sentences of the first Chapter and recite it as a prayer and I am still overwhelmed with real pain and then gratitude as I recite: “He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, He gave them power to be made the sons of God, to them that believe in His Name. Who are born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. And we saw His glory, (the glory as it were of the only begotten of the Father) full of Grace and Truth.” I have also gained an awesome, as the word means literally, understanding of the Book of Isaiah and its foretelling of the Messiah. I have also been shaken and then comforted by the letters of Saint Peter as I contemplated his breathtaking explanations of the Faith and how we ought to be as Christians. Many times, the Psalms have been at times as if they were my own voice expressing my joy, my distress, my shame and my hope as I contemplated them prayerfully.
Pope Francis invited people to “pray your prayers, pray the rosary, talk with the Lord, but also carry out this contemplative prayer keeping your gaze fixed on Jesus”. Hope comes from this prayer, he said, adding “our Christian life unfolds in that context, between memory and hope”:
“Memory of our past journey, memory of so many graces received from the Lord. And hope, looking at the Lord, who is the only one who can give me hope. And in order to gaze at the Lord, to know the Lord, we pick up the Gospel and carry out this contemplative prayer. Today, for example, try for 10 minutes – 15, no more – to read the Gospel, picture and say something to Jesus. And nothing more. And so your knowledge of Jesus will be bigger and your hope will grow. Do not forget, keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus. And in order to do this contemplative prayer”.
For many years, I read like this every day, but lately I haven’t been as diligent, even with a Bible on my desk at hand all the time and nearby at home all the time. Pope Francis reminded me of how important this was in the past for me, and how I need to do this again every day. So, today I have to appreciate and acknowledge what Pope Francis said to be a good and valuable lesson not just for me, but for everyone. I was really happy that I didn’t read of what he said with anything but agreement. I truly hope that this would happen every day, and I pray for that.
So, read the Gospels as contemplative prayer, and other passages of the Scriptures. And don’t forget that the Church’s Handbook of Indulgences states, “A partial indulgence is granted the Christian faithful who read sacred Scripture with the veneration due God’s word and as a form of spiritual reading. The indulgence will be a plenary one when such reading is for at least one-half hour” (80). Remember, you have to intend to obtain the indulgence, that you can offer that for another soul in purgatory instead of for yourself, and to obtain the plenary indulgence you must go to confession close in time, receive the Eucharist and pray for the intentions of the pope.
Thanks for the good advice and good lesson, Pope Francis.